Rapid City Blog: Custer State Park - Backpacker

Rapid City Blog: Custer State Park


So much is packed in Custer State Park in South Dakota, it’s hard to know where to start. Jumping into a hike around Sylvan Lake, we wished we’d brought a kayak or two to paddle around the small rock formations jutting from and surrounding the small lakebed. We opted instead for the trail that encircles the lake and found groups of rock climbers tucked away on the spire-like rock formations along the trail. Anglers clustered around the shore, and a pair of them practiced landing their flies in juuuust the right spot.


The trifecta of Needles Highway, Wildlife Loop Road, and Iron Mountain Road make up the Peter Nobeck Scenic highway, and took us to some memorable viewpoints. The winding drive on the Needles Highway through the park itself yielded views of Cathedral Spires, a dense mass of thin granite formations pointed straight skyward. Buffalo roam freely here in the park, and are often seen on Wildlife Loop Road. One could make the case that seeing one of the hundreds of bikers that joyride through park highways could count as a wildlife sighting, too. On our sunny afternoon visit, we left the park on Iron Mountain Road, whose road-trip friendly scenery includes a view of Mount Rushmore framed by a narrow granite driving tunnel.