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In the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota and extending westward into Wyoming, the Black Hills National Forest covers more than 1.2 million acres. It was established in 1897. Stands of ponderosa pine, spruce and aspen are home to mountain lions, white-tailed and mule deer, elk and turkeys. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep are sometimes seen throughout the hills. Visitors should note that while summer days are warm, the nights can be quite cool.
Various routes make for a scenic drive. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway creates a 70-mile loop via the Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road—with its views of Mount Rushmore framed by tunnels—and the pigtail bridges. Norbeck Overlook, on Iron Mountain Road (US 16A south from Keystone, S.D.), offers a view of the Black Elk Wilderness area.
The 20-mile Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway along US 14A follows the pine- and spruce-covered banks of Spearfish Creek. Hiking trails to the canyon rims offer views of canyon walls and forests. Beautiful fall colors may be seen along this route in late September and early October.
The 111-mile Centennial Trail runs the length of the Black Hills from Bear Butte State Park to Wind Cave National Park. With more than 30 access points, portions of the route are open to motorized vehicles, horseback riders and mountain bicycles.
The forest's visitor center at Pactola Reservoir, on US 385 west of Rapid City, S.D., provides information about the history and management of the forest, including wildlife, scenery and recreation areas. Maps and information also are available at the forest supervisor's office in Custer City, S.D., and at district rangers' offices in Custer City, Rapid City and Spearfish, S.D., and in Sundance and Newcastle, Wyo. Allow 30 minutes minimum. Visitor center open daily 9-5, mid-May through Labor Day. Free.
Most of the forest's developed recreational facilities are in South Dakota, but the Wyoming segment does have four campgrounds with 76 sites. Entrance to the forest is free, but there are fees for day-use areas and camping. For further information contact the Forest Supervisor's Office, 1019 N. 5th St., Custer City, SD 57730; phone (605) 673-9200.
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Current Location: Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota