One of our favorite camping spots in America is the Black Hills Badlands area. Located in Southwestern South Dakota, these two treasures are a must see for every camper. Beautiful vistas, amazing campsites,and historical areas are just a fraction of what greets you.
The area has been inhabited by Native Americans for a least 7000 years. This area has held a sacred position in Native culture from the beginning of time. After the discovery of gold in the hills, they were invaded by gold miners illegally trespassing on native lands. In fact, in July of 1980, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that the Black Hills were illegally taken from the tribes. The U.S. government was ordered to pay what amounts to over $750 million to the Lakota people. The Lakota still refuse to accept the money as it would validate the theft of their most sacred land.
The Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Lakota and Pawnee have at one point or another laid claim to this area of South Dakota.
The 1st European explorers to see the Hills were probably the French in 1743. It was not until 1823 that American trapper Jedediah Smith traveled through them. After gold was discovered in the 1870’s Americans increasingly encroached on Lakota territory. Thousands of speculators went to the Hills in search of fortune.
Following the defeat of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapahoe in 1876, the United States took control of the Black Hills in violation of the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Lakota have still never accepted the validity of the US occupation. They continue to claim this sacred area as sovereign territory to this day.
The Black Hills can be divided into 2 areas, the northern and southern hills. The southern hills are home to Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Custer Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. The northern hills are the home of the historic towns of Deadwood and Sturgis. Each year Sturgis, South Dakota holds the largest motorcycle rally in United States. Over half a million bikers converge on the hills each August.
We have explored South Dakota for the past 30 years and each year we find something new and remarkable. The Black Hills of South Dakota surely become one of the great adventures of a lifetime.
Anyone visiting needs to see Deadwood. It has had many famous historical residents. Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok called Deadwood their home at one time. They are both buried in Deadwood.
South of Rapid City on Highway 16 you will come to Mount Rushmore National Monument where Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt have likenesses carved out of the 5725 foot tall stone mountain.
Winding south of Mount Rushmore on Highway 16 A you can travel to Custer State Park. Custer State Park is a 71,000 acre wildlife and nature preserve. It is home to a herd of over 1500 American Buffalo in addition to antelope, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. At the edge of Custer State Park you begin a beautiful 13 mile winding road through the Needles, a beautiful drive through tall pines, granite spires and amazing tunnels.
5 miles north of the town of Custer, South Dakota you will be able to see the still under construction monument to Crazy Horse, one of the last Lakota warriors to surrender to the United States government. This is the Native American response to Mount Rushmore and houses a beautiful array of shops and interpretive centers highlighting the Native American culture of the area.
Anyone traveling to the Black Hills and expecting to truly enjoy them must allow at least 4 days to take in all the hills have offer. Besides the beautiful scenery there is an array of outstanding camping areas scattered throughout the region. Whether you tent, RV or a backpack, you will find plenty of adventure in South Dakota. Be sure to pack your fishing gear and get a license as this trip affords amazing trout fishing.
Any trip to the area should include a visit to Devil’s Tower. Devil’s Tower is a short drive west of Rapid City, South Dakota. This ancient volcano core looms above the prairie in a most majestic and beautiful way. There's an excellent campground just before Devil’s Tower that has exceptional accommodations and shows the movie “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind nightly under the stars in the shadow of Devil’s Tower.
Whether you stroll the streets of Deadwood or stand in awe at the Crazy Horse Memorial, this is an adventure you will remember for a lifetime.
The rugged beauty of The Badlands National Park defies description. The video on this page has done little to capture the beauty of actually being there. No photos can do it justice. You just have to stand on the overlooks, with the wind in your hair and experience the majesty of the Badlands just south and east of the Black Hills.
There are three campgrounds near the south entrance of the park. They range from primitive to full service camping. Plan at least two days camping in "the lands". Once again, it is an experience that will last a lifetime.