Days 13-16 – Shhh, don’t tell anyone else Custer SD is fantastic

Nice easy trip from Badlands to Custer in the BlackHills. Camp ground is very pleasant and just on the outskirts of town. We took a walk in that evening and scoped out the local bars, restaurants and shops, early dinner and then get ready for planning the next few days.

Nice weather planned for this morning and so we set off on the Mickleson bike trail–mickelson-trail/ We were able to join it just outside our campground and it was a great ride to Hill City, it was about 34 miles round trip. Hill City is famous for the 1880 train depot, where they sell steam train tickets through the Black hills. We opted to have an ice cream instead! Sorry no pictures of said ice cream, we were too quick eating it!

That evening we drove the Wildlife Loop through the state park, there were clouds coming in over the mountain tops so we were not sure if that would work in our favor for viewing or not. As it happens, we were not disappointed, many more Prairie dogs were around, we saw the wild donkeys, the little one is only 3 days old and we got up close and personal with the Buffalo (and yes we stayed in the car, that’s one of the benefits of a large sunroof!) on the way out of the loop we saw some of the Pronghorn including one very dashing male.

Next morning we were up and out of the RV by 6.15 and drove around the Needles Loop, it was reasonably quiet, although there were a few people that had the same idea. At the end of the Needles Loop, we drove the Iron Mountain road which brought us out to Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore was quite busy and it was still barely 9am, so glad we decided on an early start. We used the audio wands to listen to the guides as we wandered around the Presidential Trail. I have to say, I thought it was more impressive there than I thought it would be and very glad we took the time to see it

Based on a recommendation from one of Rob’s acquaintances, we drove down to Hot Springs and went to visit the Mammoth site It’s and active archaeological site at a filled in sink hole, they have not gone down very far and already found so many Mammoth remains. We went back into Hot Springs for lunch and then back to the RV for a break before our evening adventure.

Early dinner and then out to the Needles loop to walk the 3mile round trip up and around Cathedral Spires trail, the top half of which includes climbing over some fair sized boulders. The temperature was better at that time, and it was a nice hike. On the way back, I spotted some climbers traversing one of the spires and no, not on my list of things to try!

Last full day in Custer and another early start, we hiked the Black Elk loop, just under 8 miles in total and an elevation climb of 1500ft. Starting off was a gentle incline and mainly through the trees although it did get a lot steeper and less shade as we got closer to the top. The last 1/4 mile is up a series of steps to the top of the Peak where there are fantastic views in all directions, we were at the highest point in South Dakota and had a beautiful clear sky. The peak features a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938. That the tower remains is a testament to the quality of the craftsmanship and the work that went into its construction. The stone, cement and sand were hauled up more than three miles by carts pulled by horses and mules.

The last evening we went to the Mount Rushmore Brewery for dinner and were treated to a really great live band. Custer, we would love to return at some point.