Visiting South Dakota – Day 2

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Yes, it’s been several months since my trip and South Dakota and I’m finally writing the second post. I’ll shed some light on why I’ve been such a “slacker” later, but for now, let’s talk about visiting South Dakota!

Day 2 brought the same thing Day 1 did: rain. In fact, we talked with one person who said it had rained or SNOWED every day since April! Hearing her story made me thankful we only had to deal with rain. I’ve never slept in a tent in really cold weather and definitely didn’t want my first experience to be with Brecken. It’s bad enough listening to myself whine, I didn’t need a 5 year to help me in the matter.

We started the day the way we always do, with food. This time we ate a cute little breakfast place where we should have split meals but didn’t. We then hopped in the Suby and explored Custer State Park.

Custer State Park, in the Black Hills, covers about 71,000 acres. There is a ton of wildlife, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see pronghorns, buffalo, mountain goats and deer. If you’re really lucky, you may even see a mountain lion or a coyote in the park. In addition to the various types of wildlife, there are several hiking trails to explore and lakes and streams to cast a line or paddle around in a canoe. For the person who wants to be part of the action, in September is the annual buffalo roundup, where roughly 1300 buffalo are rounded up with the help of real life cowboys and cowgirls.

buffalon custer state park

Wildlife Loop Road

There are a number of way to approach the park and because of logistics (and weather), we left Custer and decided to drive South to Wildlife Loop Road. I can’t recall how long it took us to get from the Blue Bell Area to the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, but there wasn’t much traffic and we could go as slow or as fast as we wanted to. We came across some buffalo just hanging out in the road.

cathedral spires trail map

We then drove on Highway 87 to the Sylvan Lake area. On Highway 87 you go through two tunnels, Tunnel 5 and Tunnel 6. We tried to get a picture of the tunnel without any cars but traffic was too busy at this time. After being in a car most of the morning, we all needed to stretch our legs and decided to hike in the Cathedral Spires area.

cathedral spires custer state park

pine beetle damage south dakota

At one time, I think this area was really pretty. With all the pines and rock formations, it was probably pretty breathtaking but on this rainy day, with evidence of the pine beetle invasion and lots of cutting & chunking, it was kind of dreary. Everywhere you looked there were dead or dying pine trees. The hike itself wasn’t easy but it was definitely do-able, even for a 5-year old. Because of the rain, there were a few places where Brecken was carried up the trail but otherwise, she was a rock-star and did most everything on her own.

sylvan lake - no logo

Sylvan Lake

sylvan lake


Our final stop was Sylvan Lake, which is one of the most popular stops in Custer State Park. At Sylvan Lake you can swim, rent canoes and non-motorized boats, hike on one of the many trails in the area or even fish if you’re feeling up to. It’s also a very popular spot for weddings and other special occasions and for me, a place I’ll never forget since it’s where K proposed to me. 🙂

hiking in south dakota

B climbing the rocks around Sylvan Lake

So if you’re planning a trip to South Dakota, I saw the following things must make your to-do list: visiting Mount Rushmore, driving Wildlife Loop Road, going on a hike (any hike will do, just start moving) and visit Sylvan Lake for the activities and the views. Skip Crazy Horse unless it’s on your Bucket List and if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll visit on the one day it decides not to rain!

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.

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