The Black Hills of South Dakota hold some of the state’s most treasured sites, from national monuments and the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains. Staying in “The Heart of the Hills,” a great sleep at the EverSpring Inn & Suites Hill City will have you ready for a full day of exploring.

Here are our top 8 must-visits in the Black Hills this season, because frankly, 5 or 6 isn’t enough.

  1. George S. Mickelson Trail – 0 miles

The George S. Mickelson Trail was completed in September of 1998 and offers easy access for all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills. The 109-mile stretch offers easy-to-moderate terrain and four rock tunnels for hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders to enjoy. Hill City EverSpring is situated alongside the trail, providing convenient access for guests to park and explore in either direction. The area is also home to various bike rental shops for those who forgot their wheels.

  1. Sylvan Lake Area – 9 miles

Any Black Hills vacation would not be complete without driving up Needles Highway and a stop at Sylvan Lake, arguably the most picturesque lake in the state. Seen in the 2007 Disney Film National Treasure: Book of Secrets, sadly though the lake does not sit on top of Mount Rushmore as the movie depicts.

Above Sylvan Lake, however, sits Black Elk Peak, the highest elevation east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Pyrenees Mountains in France at 7,244’ above sea level. Trail #9 opens from Sylvan Lake with moderate to difficult terrain and will take you about four hours roundtrip.

  1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – 15 miles

South Dakota’s tourism motto is not “Great Faces, Great Places” for no reason, you could say that Mount Rushmore is the ‘face(s)’ of the state. Gutzon Borglum meticulously carved the figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln into the granite, giving rise to the iconic monument. Today, Mount Rushmore is visited by nearly 3 million people annually. Did you know the model was originally meant to depict the presidents down to their waist? After Borglum’s death in 1941, the plans laid dormant and various other details were left unfinished.

  1. Crazy Horse Memorial – 10 miles

Construction began on Crazy Horse Memorial in 1948, dreamed up by Korczak Ziolkowski to be a tribute to the Oglala Lakota leader and namesake, Crazy Horse. Once finished, the carving will be the largest of its kind in the world. The monument is accompanied by the on-site Indian Museum of North America and Native American Educational & Cultural Center to provide additional educational and cultural programming. For an up-close view, participate in the Volksmarch, one of the most popular organized hikes in the United States. The event takes place on June 1, 2024, and another date in the fall is TBD.

  1. Badlands National Park – 88 miles

The Badlands might be the farthest of our picks away from the EverSpring, but the otherworldly landscapes surely make up for it. Carved by thousands of years’ worth of erosion, the Badlands showcase a rugged expanse of buttes, spires, and deep canyons. The park’s nearly 244,000 acres hold many hiking trails and lookout points to gaze at the landscapes and many animal species that call the park home. Don’t let the name scare you away, it comes from the Lakota people who called the area mako sica, which translates to “badlands,” due to the difficult terrain.

  1. Custer State Park Wildlife Loop – 28 miles

Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres of beautiful scenery across the southern Black Hills, including Sylvan Lake and four other lakes. You’ll find local shops, hiking, fishing, and swimming, picking places to visit inside the park is almost too easy. The wildlife loop is an 18-mile road through open grassland that the park’s wildlife calls home. Animals like bison, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer, elk, coyotes, burros, prairie dogs, eagles, hawks, and various other bird species call the park home. The number one inhabitant of the park, the 1,350 free-roaming buffalo.

  1. Jewel Cave National Monument – 26 miles

The 215-mile cave system in the western Black Hills, Jewel Cave, sits as one of the longest caves in the world. The cave is still thought of as largely unexplored, with new discoveries and mapping being done entirely by volunteers. Though the four available cave tours will not have you exploring new passages, there is still plenty to explore below ground. Above ground, there are various nature trails on the 1,279-acre grounds along with the visitor center offering background on the rich area of the monument.

  1. Historic Deadwood, South Dakota – 43 miles

Riddled with history from the gold rush and Wild West, Deadwood, South Dakota became a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and is now known for its rich history, entertainment, casinos, museums, and more. Outlaws such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, and more carved their names into the history books in the small mining town. Today, you can find them walking the streets as part of Deadwood Alive, a theater recreation of the major events that occurred there. The area is also home to many breweries and wineries, local shops, spas, and casinos.

The Black Hills and Hill City have so much to offer, we’ve got another list of hidden gems to explore if you can keep our secret. Stay tuned!

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