Description - The park boasts scenic drives such as the Needles Highway (SD 87), which
twists and turns its way past towering rock formations and through narrow
tunnels. At the end of one tunnel stands the Needles Eye, a granite spire with
a slit only 3 to 4 feet wide but reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air.
History and culture also abound. Walk the banks of French Creek, where
Custer’s expedition first discovered gold in 1874. Take in a theater
performance at the Black Hills Playhouse. Or, visit the log cabin that was
home to Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate.
- Custer State Park features three major scenic drives; Needles Highway (SD
Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake), Iron Mountain Road (US
Highway 16A) to make up the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway.
Visitors may also encounter one of the world's largest publicly-owned, free-
roaming bison herds, numbering around 1,500. The last weekend of each
September, wranglers and rangers round up the herd at the culmination of a
weekend of festivities and entertainment. Weekend events include the Buffalo
Roundup Arts Festival where more than 150 exhibitors offer Western and
North American-themed arts and crafts as well as South Dakota made
products, followed by the actual Buffalo Roundup on Monday.
Another attraction at Custer State Park is Sylvan Lake. This lake is considered the “Crown Jewel” of Custer State Park in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. The mountain lake sits at the base of Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. Hikers can access the trailhead for the three-mile trip to the summit. Other lake activities include swimming, paddleboating, fishing and picnicking. Sylvan Lake Lodge overlooks the lake and offers cabins, lodge rooms and a dining room.
Recreation - Favorite outdoor activities include hiking 7,242-foot Harney Peak, mountain
biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, chuckwagon suppers and
jeep rides to see the bison. Birding is also popular. More than 186
species live or migrate through the park, and western and eastern species
often overlap. Custer State Park offers seven campgrounds with 335 individual campsites and 37 camper cabins. The camper cabins are basic cabins and are located in Game Lodge, Blue Bell and French Creek Horse Campgrounds. The cabins have electricity, heat, air conditioning and a table. Campers must provide all their own gear. The campgrounds are scattered throughout the park: in pine forest, next to mountain streams and adjacent to mountain lakes. Some sites offer electricity. Call 1-800-710-2267 or go online at www.CampSD.com for reservations. (Some sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only.)
Climate - South Dakota has an interior continental climate, with hot summers, extremely
cold winters, high winds, and periodic droughts. The normal January
temperature is 12°F (–11°C); the normal July temperature, 74°F (23°C). The
record low temperature is –58°F (–50°C), set at McIntosh on 17 February 1936;
the record high, 120°F (49°C), at Gannvalley on 5 July 1936. Normal annual
precipitation (1971–2000) averaged 24.7 in (62.7 cm) in Sioux Falls in the
southeast, decreasing to less than 13 in (33 cm) in the northwest. Sioux Falls
receives an average of 41 in (104 cm) of snow per year.
Custer State Park is located in the south-western part of the state in the Black Hills. The park can be accessed using highway 385 or highway 16.