Black Hills National Forest
Home to Mount Rushmore and Harney Peak, Black Hills National Forest is a four seasons playground where miles of wilderness await discovery.
Soaring stony peaks, dense pine forests, meandering streams, clear lakes, and miles of untouched wilderness fill the 1.2 million acres of Black Hills National Forest.
From the highest peak east of the Rockies at Harney Peak, which rises 7242 feet into the open South Dakota skies, to the heart of the forest where time stands still, Black Hills National Forest is waiting to be explored.
The Black Hills rise from the prairies in the east and roll through southwestern South Dakota into Wyoming, an ancient, majestic landscape. Camping, hiking, bicycling, swimming, and climbing are just a few of the activities the Black Hills have to offer.
Trails in Black Hills National Forest
From an easy stroll through the forest to a strenuous climb to a breathtaking vista, the 450 miles of trails in Black Hills National Forest offer a variety of hiking choices. Backpacking in the forest allows visitors the chance to overnight beneath the stars, while plenty of day hikes ranging from less than an hour to an all-day trek are also available.
Many trails throughout the forest also welcome bicyclists and are open to equestrian use. In the winter months the forest offers a serene, snowy wilderness, where cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are both options for exploring the winter landscape.
Most trails are open to a variety of uses, with a full list available from the US Forest Service. Both the Veteran’s Point and Roughlock trails are designed to be ADA accessible.
Camping in Black Hills National Forest
Spread across the miles of natural beauty are 30 campgrounds offering basic services including potable water. The campgrounds range in size and accessibility. Some offer only a few sites and do not accommodate RVs, while others are larger and welcome a variety of camping equipment.
True adventurers are free to find their own place beneath the stars away from the crowd. Backcountry camping is permitted in Black Hills National Forest, in accordance with basic guidelines and fire safety rules.
Three horse camps, Sundance, Iron Creek, and Willow Creek, welcome equestrian campers.
The Waters of the Black Hills
From lakes, to waterfalls, to babbling brooks, Black Hills National Forest features an incredible array of fresh, clean water. The larger lakes and reservoirs such as Sheridan Lake welcome motorized boats for water-skiing and pleasure cruising. Smaller bodies of water are perfect for both swimming and leisurely boating, with their “no wake” rules to keep things quiet.
The waters are home to many species of fish, and lakes, rivers, streams and other bodies of water offer a plentiful catch. A fishing license is required for anglers in all of the waters of the forest.
Climbing the Black Hills
The granite peaks of the Black Hills, and the views their summits command, call to rock climbers from around the world, and there are a variety of climbing courses throughout the park that have been designated for that use.
Climbing opportunities range from easy to difficult, so beginners through advanced climbers will find a rock face to challenge and welcome them to find the summit.
- Mount Rushmore On the Eastern end of the Forest lies one of America’s most loved monuments, Mount Rushmore.The four American Presidents are situated 500 feet up the side of the mountain, looking over the Black Hills and the prairies beyond. Mount Rushmore is open throughout the year and charges a parking fee to visitors.
Visiting Black Hills National Forest
Black Hills National Forest is open throughout the year, and there is no entrance fee. Fees are charged for overnight camping as well as day use areas throughout the forest.
Winter is beautiful in this part of South Dakota, but can involve inclement weather that leads to occasional road closures. The Forest Service issues alerts to ensure travellers are aware of closures and other weather-related conditions.
Getting to Black Hills National Forest
Spanning the border between two states, South Dakota and Wyoming, Black Hills National Forest can be entered from all directions. Interstate 90 passes the northern edge of the forest.
The Forest can be entered from Highway 385 off I-90, or on Highway 16 out of Rapid City, SD, the nearest major city. In addition to camping, lodging can be found in surrounding cities including Rapid City, Spearfish, SD, and Newcastle, WY.