Not a day goes by during a Rapid City and Black Hills vacation that isn’t full of surreal adventures. I’m not talking about a quick café breakfast followed by a trip to the zoo and then some shopping, although that can be fun too. I’m talking about being immersed in a location so spectacular that you’ll want to soak up every single second. We’re looking at you Custer State Park. Thanks to Rapid City’s central location, this famous landmark is a quick 45 minute drive and is recognized as one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. Offering plenty of chances to surround yourself with buffalo herds, gaze upon the park’s crown jewel, Sylvan Lake, and even attend a professional theatre performance surrounded by pines, here’s what the perfect day in Custer State Park could look like for you.

Meet The Locals

Buffalo Jeep Safari in Custer State Park
Buffalo Jeep Safari ©Jacob Moon

Head for Wildlife Loop Road to greet the furry faces that call this park home. Here you’ll have the opportunity to come across wildlife like the curious burros, a herd of nearly 1,500 bison, a prairie dog town, elk and more! As you drive throughout the park keep an eye on the rocky portions and you might be lucky enough to spot Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goats as well. The park has an abundance of wildlife that’s thrilling to come across. For a truly unique experience, book a Buffalo Jeep Safari Ride. 

Soak Up The Views

Sylvan Lake views in Custer State Park
Sylvan Lake ©Kobee Stalder

Custer State Park’s mountain lakes offer a great place to sit back and relax or perhaps even play on the water with rentals like kayaks, canoes, or paddle boards. Sylvan Lake, the crown jewel of the park, is a popular place to dip your toes in the water or enjoy a leisurely stroll around the lake. Or you can tackle a trail for a little more elevation on your visit. Black Elk Peak, the highest peak in South Dakota, is found in Custer State Park but so are a wealth of other scenic hikes. For those with families, Lover’s Leap or Cathedral Spires offer great views and moderate trails when it comes to difficulty. 

Visit A Theatre In The Woods

Shrek performance at the Black Hills Playhouse
Black Hills Playhouse ©Sage Studios

Probably one of the coolest ways to end any day full of outdoor adventure is to sit back and relax at one of the most unique places found within the park, Black Hills Playhouse. Tucked into the ponderosa pines of the park, this theatre in the woods puts on outstanding plays throughout the summer season. Witness actors, directors, and technicians from across the country put on top-of-the-line performances as they have done since 1946, making them one of the oldest continuously operating summer stock theatres in the nation. The high-quality performances held in this backwoods theatre are a treasure you’ll rave about for years to come. See what’s in store for the summer season by viewing the schedule on their website.

Spending a day in Custer State Park is not only effortless fun, but a truly memorable experience that will last a lifetime.