American buffalo herd in Custer State Park.

© turtix/Shutterstock

Custer State Park

Top choice in Black Hills

Mt Rushmore may lure travelers to the Black Hills, but it's nearby Custer State Park that often creates the most lasting memories. Not only does it boast some of the best American wildlife viewing outside of Yellowstone, but also curvaceous mountain drives, serene lakeside retreats and plenty of open range.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Black Hills attractions

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

8.35 MILES

Visitors can't help but be impressed by the sheer scale and massive physical effort of the team behind Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota…

2. Crazy Horse Memorial

13.14 MILES

The world's largest monument is this 563ft-tall work-in-progress (with a lot of work to go). When finished it will depict the Sioux leader astride his…

3. Bear Country USA

15.12 MILES

Oodles of bears big and small in this drive-through park live off the land and hope you'll do something forbidden like offering them a Big Mac, or your…

4. Wind Cave National Park

15.22 MILES

This park, protecting 44 sq miles of grassland and forest, sits just south of Custer State Park. The central draw is, of course, the cave, which contains…

5. Reptile Gardens

16.51 MILES

Reptiles, snakes, giant tortoises and many more critters inspire countless 'wows.'

6. Jewel Cave National Monument

22.39 MILES

If you visit only one Black Hills cave, this would be a good choice. It's 13 miles west of Custer and is so named because calcite crystals line much of…

7. Museum of Geology

23.04 MILES

All that drama underground has produced some spectacular rocks. See these plus dinosaur bones and some stellar fossils here at the South Dakota School of…

8. Statues of Presidents

23.1 MILES

From a shifty-eyed Nixon in repose to a triumphant Harry Truman, lifelike statues dot corners throughout the center of Rapid City. Collect all 42. Maps…