Black Hills National Forest
The majority of the Black Hills lie within this 1875-sq-mile mixture of protected and logged forest, perforated by pockets of private land on most roads. The scenery is fantastic, whether you get deep into it on the 450 miles of hiking trails or drive the byways and gravel fire roads.
Once the very definition of lawless, today Deadwood is very much changed, although the 80 gambling halls big and small would no doubt put a sly grin on the faces of the hard characters who founded the town. Then again, loser's largesse is paying for Deadwood's restoration. Settled illegally by eager gold rushers in the 1870s, Deadwood is now a National Historic Landmark.
Fast food, Christian iconography and billboards for ribald biker bars featuring dolled-up models are just some of the cacophony of images of this tacky small town on I-90 (exits 30 and 32). Things get even louder for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August, when around 500,000 riders, fans and curious onlookers take over the town.
Custer State Park
The only reason 111-sq-mile Custer State Park isn't a national park is that the state grabbed it first. It boasts one of the largest free-roaming bison herds in the world (about 1500), the famous 'begging burros' (donkeys seeking handouts) and more than 200 bird species.
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (www.byways.org) is a waterfall-lined, curvaceous 20-mile road (US 14A) that cleaves into the heart of the hills from Spearfish. There's a sight worth stopping for around every bend; pause for longer than a minute and you'll hear beavers hard at work. It's a good alternative route to Lead and Deadwood from I-90.
Just uphill from Deadwood, Lead (pronounced leed) has an unpolished charm and still bears plenty of scars from the mining era. Gape at the 1250ft-deep Homestake Gold Mine from the new Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center to see what open-pit mining can do to a mountain. Nearby are the same mine's shafts, which plunge more than 1.