BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST
Immerse yourself in 1.2 million acres of diverse terrain and breathtaking scenery at Black Hills National Forest. Established in 1897 by President Grover Cleveland, this stunning destination owes its name to the pine trees that cover the landscape, giving the hills a black appearance from a distance. The Lakota Sioux know the region as “paha sapa” – translated as “hills that are black” – and have considered it a sacred place for hundreds of years. The forest is 110 miles long and 70 miles wide, comprised of mountains that span the Central Hills, Northern Hills, Southern Hills and Northeast Wyoming. You’ll find trails, streams, lakes, caves and some of the highest peaks East of the Rocky Mountains here. Wondering where to catch the best views? Keep reading to see our top four picks.
Rapid City is the perfect hub for your Black Hills Vacation
TOP 4 WAYS TO EXPERIENCE THE SCENERY
1 Discover the Trails of The Black Hills
The Black Hills National Forest is an ATV enthusiast’s playground. With over 700 miles of designated motorized trails across 21 trailheads, your hunger to get out and ride will be filled.
2 Explore Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
Gear up for a leisurely drive or bike ride through 20 miles of gorgeous foliage peppered with canyon waterfalls. Pull over to capture the views, or take a pit stop at the shops and restaurants along the way. The hiking trails range from beginner-friendly strolls to more challenging paths across creeks and caves—perfect conditions to cool off on a hot summer day.
3 Cruise Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
If hairpin turns are more your speed, this route is for you. Get fantastic views of Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore on this 70-mile byway. Don’t miss Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway for some of the best scenery.
4 Picnic at Breezy Point
How does lunch with a view sound? Post up at this off-the-beaten-path picnic area for panoramic views of the Black Elk Wilderness, Mount Rushmore, Black Elk Peak and several cities in the distance.
Discover More Black Hills Gems
Explore landmarks steeped in history and surrounded by natural beauty—all easily accessible from Rapid City. While the Black Hills possess some of the most amazing parks and monuments in the country, it is also the home of 13,400 acres of wilderness with a new adventure waiting on every corner.
BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST APP
This app is a must-have for hikers – it gives you access to trail maps throughout the Black Hills even if you don’t have a signal. You can also use it to find popular destinations, nearby activities and the latest news and events.
THINGS TO DO
The great outdoors is calling. Prep your recreational vehicle or pack your tent for camping—you’ve got tons of activities to cross off your Black Hills bucket list. Take it slow with a leisurely hike or fishing trip, or get your adrenaline pumping with mountain biking or rock climbing.
The Black Hills National Forest Visitor Center is located on Pactola Reservoir Dam, Highway 385 in the central hills. 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., 7 days a week, (mid-May to Labor Day weekend) For more information, please call 605-343-8755 or visit the Black Hills National Forest website.
PassES & PermitsClick Here
Fees may be charged and permits required for some activities.
BLACK HILLS INTERACTIVE MAPClick Here
PLAN YOUR BLACK HILLS ADVENTURE
Though it may seem like adventures in the Black Hills National Forest are hard to beat, the fun doesn’t stop there. Rapid City is bursting with life and creative expression—catch live music in the charming Main Street Square, dine outdoors under the stars or surround yourself with art inspired by Native American traditions. Stay downtown to take in the culture and enjoy city comforts before you venture on more rugged outdoor treks. While you’re on the road, leave time for a journey through the surrounding area to get a full picture of South Dakota history, like the Wall Drug roadside store and Badlands National Park. Check out our most popular guides so you can start making memories.