Custer State Park
Custer State Park is a 71,000-acre vacation paradise that’s abundant with adventure, wildlife, and scenic landscapes. While exploring the park you’ll discover a diverse range of wildlife including bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, elk, coyote, prairie dogs and "begging" burros. The park also contains one of the nation's largest free roaming buffalo herds, making it common to experience a "Buffalo Jam" while driving Wildlife Loop. For a guaranteed buffalo encounter book the unique Buffalo Safari Jeep ride where they take you off road straight into the herd! Custer State Park and South Dakota have been named as one of the World's Top 10 Wildlife Destinations.
The park is home to five lakes: Sylvan Lake - considered the “Crown Jewel” of the park, Legion Lake, Center Lake, Stockade Lake and the Game Lodge Pond. Visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities at each. The park also offers numerous trails to explore and the seemingly impossible to build road called Needles Highway, which winds you through a breathtaking portion of the park. Open year-round, it's a place packed with outdoor adventures that will leave you with a whole new appreciation of the beauty South Dakota offers. If you’re looking to hit the ground running exploring this park check out our Go-Getters Guide and find more information below!
Weekly Park License:
- $3/person per visit
- $36 first vehicle
- $18 second vehicle
- $80 transferable license
Custer State Park Visitor Center
Located at the junction of US Hwy 16A and Wildlife Loop Road. Open year-round this visitor center makes for a great way to start your adventures in Custer State Park.
- Memorial Day - Labor Day: Open 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
- Labor Day - September 30: Open 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
- October 1 - Memorial Day: Open 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 7 days a week.
- Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas
Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center
Located along US Highway 16A near the Historic State Game Lodge & Resort. Visitors can catch an educational program or browse displays and exhibits about the park’s wildlife, geology and history. There is also a gift shop and park staff available.
- Memorial Day - September 30: Closed
- October 1 - Open House Weekend: Closed
Wildlife Station Visitor Center
Located on Wildlife Loop Road. Travelers can stop here to learn more about the park’s wildlife and to locate the roaming buffalo herd.
- Memorial Day - Labor Day: Open 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Labor Day - September 30: Open 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- October 1 - Memorial Day: Closed
Buffalo Safari Jeep Ride
Thrill seekers love the experience offered on the Custer State Park Buffalo Safari Jeep Ride. This open-air jeep ride takes you around Wildlife Loop Road and off-roading into the buffalo herd, all while your knowledgeable driver shares interesting and educational facts about the park and its wildlife.
Blue Bell Hayride and Chuckwagon Dinner
Enjoy a scenic 45-minute ride filled with classic country and folk songs as you make your way through the park to the chuckwagon feast!
Wildlife Loop Road
This drive provides spectacular opportunities to encounter a wide range of wildlife. Be sure to keep a safe distance (recommended at least 100 yards) from bison, elk, mountain goats and other animals. For the safety of the animals the park asks that you keep your speed at around 25mph or lower. Plan for one to two hours to complete this drive.
Coast the twists and turns through a stunning terrain of mountain tunnels and granite spires. Built to showcase the area's beauty without disrupting the land or the wildlife, this drive is meant to be taken slowly so you can appreciate all its beauty. Plan for this drive to take around 45 to 60 minutes. The highway is closed to vehicles during the winter months - but remains open for fat tire biking, snowshoeing and hiking.
Fishing is allowed anywhere in the park with a valid South Dakota fishing license. Swimming is allowed at all five of the park's lakes. Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake both offer stand up paddle boards and kayaks for rent. Boating is allowed at certain lakes but with restrictions:
- Sylvan Lake, Electric motors only
- Legion Lake, Electric motors only
- Stockade Lake, All boats allowed
- Center Lake, Only slow, non-wake boating allowed
Hiking and Rock Climbing
The park offers a variety of trails ranging from easy to strenuous, with a variety of terrains ranging from a leisurely lake walk to climbing to the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains. Rock climbing adventures can be found throughout the park. Popular places are around Sylvan Lake and the Needles.
Take in the beauty of Custer State Park at a leisurely pace during a guided trail ride. The horseback tours depart from Blue Bell Lodge and they offer a selection of trail ride tour options for you to choose from.
Custer State Park is the oldest and largest state park in South Dakota. It’s fascinating history and wildlife is covered expertly in the park's visitor centers found through the park and listed above.
The park is also home to a wide variety of historic sites including French Creek, made famous when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, the historic State Game Lodge, which served as President Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House, Badger Hole Historic Site, which was home to Charles Badger Clark who was honored as South Dakota’s first poet laureate, and the Mount Coolidge Fire Tower. You can read more about the history of Custer State Park here.
Pets are welcome in Custer State Park but must be on a leash no longer than 10 feet. No pets are allowed on the designated swimming beaches or inside park buildings. Please make sure to always clean up after your pets.