on August 26, 2007
Custer State Park is a fantastic place for all sorts of activities. Even just driving through gives you great views of the Black Hills and numerous species of wildlife, especially the Park’s large herd of American bison, which most locals call “buffalo” even though that’s not technically accurate. You might also catch a glimpse of deer, antelope, elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, and prairie dogs. We saw many deer and antelope on our latest journey.There are several lodging options within the park, including the State Game Lodge and cabins at various resorts such as Blue Bell. I’ve stayed at Blue Bell -- we woke up with a buffalo blocking our front door! It’s funny and a great photo opportunity, but you have to remember how dangerous those animals are. They roam free in the park, which includes around your accommodations. It makes for a special experience, but keep an eye on your children and don’t dare get too close. Buffalo are unpredictable and very fast, despite their clumsy appearance.There are all kinds of activities that allow you to take full advantage of the beauty of the park and the animals that call it home.Jeep rides last a couple of hours and cost about $30 for an adult. The ride takes you throughout the park and you get to learn about the park’s history and wildlife. I’ve never done one of these, and really don’t feel a need -- you can learn about the park and the animals by stopping by the visitor center, and you can see it all for yourself by driving around in your own car.Trail rides originate at several different stables throughout the Hills. It’s a great opportunity to see the Hills from a unique perspective -- and how exciting to ride a horse! Horseback riding is one of my favorite activities, so if you’ve never done it, I highly suggest making friends with a local rancher or taking a trail ride through the Hills. Blue Bell Stables in the park organizes trail rides that last from an hour to all-day and cost from $26 to $175.Take care to follow the laws! I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket, but I’m told that fines can be twice as much in the park. Make sure you have the appropriate licenses for fishing, and put your garbage in the trash can. Remember that there are a lot of animals that make their home in the park, and they definitely don’t appreciate finding plastic in their bedrooms. Neither do the park rangers, who will be sure to slap you with a fine.The bad news is that you have to pay a park entrance fee. Don’t try to get away without one. The rangers are diligent about checking cars, and those without an admission sticker will be ticketed. There are different passes available, such as one-day, 7-day, and season. You have to buy the one-day pass even if you’re just passing through.
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