15 Best Things To Do in Custer, South Dakota

by Ketki Hanamshet Updated on 15 Oct 2018

Custer is a very small town one of the oldest towns in South Dakota, USA. It was named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who found gold there during his Black Hills Expedition in the year 1874. If you want to explore the Black Hills National Forest, the best place to stay is without any doubt, Custer. There are some great hotels and a lot of nice places to see like the Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. You can also visit Mount Rushmore from there as it is just at a driving distance of 30 minutes from Custer. There are some other attractions too which are worth your visit to Custer like the Old West Town and the 1881 Courthouse Museum. They are less popular but very interesting. But before you visit, you must check out the tourist attractions in Custer.

Let's explore Custer points of interest and 15 best things to do in Custer:

1. View the Jewels of Jewels Cave National Monument

altImage Source: wikimedia.org

The Jewels Cave National Monument is located at a distance of 13 miles from Custer. This is one of the major tourist attractions of the place. The cave there is full of crystals. You will think of them as jewels for their sparkle. The cave is also known to be the world’s longest caving system. The passages of the cave cover a big distance of 195 miles. The gypsum and calcite crystals look extraordinary while they glitter. You can’t take anything with you in the cave other than a camera. Don’t forget to take a flashlight to watch the beautiful formation of the cave clearly. There are a total of 750 stairs but you can use the hand rails beside them if you find difficulties in climbing.

2. Feel the craziness of the Crazy Horse Memorial 

This mountain carving can be seen on the northern sides of Custer. It is said that the Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest mountain carving in the world. The carvings are done in a style quite similar to that of Mount Rushmore. The size of the rock sculpture in 606 foot. A Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski had started working on it, way back in 1947. After his death, his family members continued the work. Till now, only the upper body and the head of the carving is finished but still, it attracts a huge number of tourists.

3. Experience the nature in Custer State Park

One of the nicest places in Custer where you will be witnessing various species of animals is the Custer State Park. Usually, the tourists visit this place at the summer but try visiting there at the end of September as there are fewer tourists so the animals come out to roam freely and you can easily watch them while driving through Wildlife Loop Road too. In the park, you will find a very cool place in Game Lodge. There is an amazing restaurant too. The quality of food id awesome. You can rent the rooms there but for that, you have to do the booking in advance. The animals which you can find there are pronghorn, buffalo, mule deer, antelope, mountain goats, white-tailed deer, elk, coyotes, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, etc. The best thing about the Custer State Park is that you can do camping there. Another great feature of the park is the Harney Peak.

4. Hiking Around the Sylvan Lake 

Sylvan Lake - ImageImage Source: wikimedia.org

The lake is just at a 15 minutes drive from the city of Custer. The surrounding of rock enhances the beauty of the lake. You can hike all around the lake to see the reflection of its beauty from every side. You can swim in the lake but the water is very cold. Boating is another thing, which you can do here. If you have a South Dakota fishing license, you can do fishing here. There is the Sylvan Lake Lodge near the lake, which provides a comfortable and warm stay. 

5. Relieve the History at the 1881 Courthouse Museum 

The 1881 Courthouse Museum was established in the year 1976 and is situated at the center of the city. The Custer County Historical Society is in charge of the operation here. Once a courtroom is now loaded with antiques of different eras. A total of 10 to 12 rooms are there and each feature a different theme. Just across the street from the museum, you will find a log cabin, which was very much in use till earlier parts of 1900.

6. The Heaven like the beauty of Needles Highway

While running through the Needles Highway, you will come across the magnificent landscapes of central Black Hills. The road is 14 miles long. On the way, you can see the legendary Needle’s eye. There are several narrow shoulders and tunnels, which you will find while driving through the roads. Other than the Needle’s eye, the major stop while your journey at the Needles Highway is the Sylvan Lake. You can even see some wild animals roaming on the sides of the road like prairie dogs, buffalos, eagles, burros, and pronghorns. 

7. Feel the 1800s in Four Mile Old West Town

There are a total of 50 old buildings of the 1800s here. The Four Mile Old West Town can be visited by taking the Mt. Rushmore Road. This is a nice tourist attraction, which will help you spend an afternoon in the lap of history. A lot of historical artifacts are here for your liking. There are old bars, banks, stores, and even an ancient piano where you can play or hear some music. The place will be inspirational for the kids and they will enjoy a lot too. The facility of a guided tour is present there too. After spending a couple of hours here, you will fell in love of the place.

8. The Wildlife Loop Road

The amazing road is in the southern parts of Custer. This 18 mile road will guarantee some wildlife for you. Animals like antelope, sheep, prairie dogs, deer, buffalos, wild turkey, marmot, and pronghorn can be seen roaming on the sides of the road. By the side of the road, you will find some nice places to stop and good restaurants to have some fries on the way.

9. Wind Cave National Park

This park is on the southern parts of Custer. For reaching there, you have to drive for 20 minutes. The boxwork formations here are very rare and there are only a few places I the world where it can be found. There are also guided tours for visiting the place but you have to book them in advance.

10. Touch the clouds with Black Hills Aerial Adventures

While your drive to Mount Rushmore, you will find this amazing place. You can book a copter ride here for you. There are different prices, for a 6 minutes ride they charge $49, for a 15 minutes ride, they charge $149, and for an hour ride they charge $399 per person. The staff is very efficient, they will answer all your questions and that will make your trip even more enjoyable. Flying over the Needles Highway and the Crazy Horse is a real treat.

11. Enjoy the Calmness of Stockade Lake

One of calmest place in Custer will refresh you and bring your inner peace. You can enjoy the sights of Black Hill from here. Other than that, you can do fishing, boating, picnic, or bird watching. Sitting at the side of the lake with your partner will bring out the romanticism in you for sure. This is a nice place for camping and hanging out with friends overnight.

12. An Evening of Entertainment with Family at the Buffalo Ridge Theater

The theatre is nice and clean with a big stage. Different shows and music are performed there. Especially the Potter family is a must watch of the place. Other than the Potter Family, you will love the Grand Jamboree and the Grand Magic Show.

13. Famous Balloon Rides of Custer

It will be a nice experience for you when you will be gliding over the Black Hills. Please don’t go if you are scared of heights. Otherwise it will be an experience to cherish for your lifetime. The staff is great and you will feel safe with them. The landing is usually gentle with them so you will not feel a thing. 

14. Visit the Kids favorite Custer County Candy Company

This place is certainly a heaven for the kids. The name of the owner is Phil Lampert. You will find here different flavors of ice creams and sodas. But as the name suggests a huge collection of local as well as imported candies.  

15. Like to Have a Drink, Visit Gold Pan Saloon

One of the nicest and oldest bars in Custer. The place is nice to cherish a glass of wine along with some snacks. You can relax here as the place is very cozy. You can find some local people and know about their lifestyles while talking with them over a drink.

Author: Ketki Hanamshet
Usually lost in a reverie, Ketki is someone who absolutely refuses to live in the practical world. While she has a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering, she should be honored mastery in procrastination. If you see her slouching on a couch, ask...

Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Custer, South Dakota

Must see places in Custer ranked on popularity. Here is the complete list of Custer tourist attractions & points of interest.

  1. # 1 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 716 times in trip plans
    Crazy Horse Memorial

    Tags: Memorial, Statue, Arts And Crafts

    Address: 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry set out to carve a mountain which was just south of Mount Rushmore with an intention of honoring the rich heritage, culture and traditions of Native ...Read more

  2. # 2 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 475 times in trip plans
    1880 Train

    Tags: Entertainment, Adventure, Hill, Train Ride

    Address: 222 Railroad Ave, Hill City, SD 57745, United States

    There is no better way to see the black hills of South Dakota than from the windows of a vintage steam train. This train ride is basically of 20 miles and is one of the best things you can do to relax...Read more

  3. # 3 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 307 times in trip plans
    Wind Cave National Park

    Tags: National Park, Park, Wildlife Park, Nature

    Address: Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    Wind Cave National Park intends to preserve and conserve the natural resources. Wind Cave National Park is spread over 33,851 acres. Because of its really small size, park managers all over states too...Read more

  4. # 4 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 697 times in trip plans
    Iron Mountain Road

    Tags: Mountain, Scenic Drive, Tunnel, Road

    Address: Iron Mountain Road, US 16 A, Custer, US

    Iron Mountain Road is a road that comes on US 16A. It is a picturesque road which passes from the outskirts of Custer. Being a part of the Peter Norbeck National Byway, this road gives you an opportun...Read more

  5. # 5 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 295 times in trip plans
    Four Mile Old West Town

    Tags: Tour, Specialty Shop

    Address: Four Mile Old West Town, 11921 West Highway 16, Custer, SD 57730

    Timings: 08:30 am - 05:00 pm Details

    You get a chance to experience yesterday’s world and setting in the old west town located in Blackhills badlands, Custer! Take a step back into the old style with lots of opportunities for famil...Read more

  6. # 6 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 374 times in trip plans
    George S. Mickelson Trail

    Tags: Forest, Trail, Safari, Bridge

    Address: 11361 Nevada Gulch Road, Lead, SD 57754-9801 ( Contact point)

    Timings: 06:00 am - 07:00 pm Details

    You can choose to walk in the footsteps of the past, even venture into the outdoors or simply enjoy a walk! This is a path where the ghosts of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok are still believed to ...Read more

  7. # 7 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 130 times in trip plans
    The Blackhills Playhouse

    Tags: Entertainment, Performance, Stage Show, Theatre

    Address: Black Hills Playhouse, PO Box 2513, Rapid City, SD  57709

    Timings: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm Details

    Although the company claims to be a children’s company and is touring most of times, catching a show here for any age group is a delight! Although their dates are very limited, but they perform ...Read more

  8. # 8 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 143 times in trip plans
    1881 Courthouse Museum

    Tags: History Museum, Hill

    Address: 411 Mount Rushmore Road, Custer, SD, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm Details

    The history of the Black hills might be lost in the elementary text books of people belonging to that particular region. Not a very spoken-about region in terms of history, it still has a very signifi...Read more

  9. # 9 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 180 times in trip plans
    Hollingsworth Horses

    Tags: Rides

    Address: 25470,Stagg Rd, Custer, SD 57730, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    Hollingsworth Horses is basically a kind of service offered in the Blackhills badlands. They give you opportunities for unguided riding across the national forest or even ride on the Mickelson Tr...Read more

  10. # 10 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 146 times in trip plans
    Panderosa Trail Rides

    Tags: Trail, Safari, Adventure, Rides

    Address: Ponderosa Trail Rides, 11594 US HWY 16, Custer, SD  57730

    Timings: 09:30 am - 04:30 pm Details

    In Custer, horse riding seems to be a tradition. You will over time find various opportunities to experience riding a horse that takes you through the scenic ponderosa pines. On the way you can pass t...Read more

  11. # 11 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 111 times in trip plans
    Hayride Chuck Wagon Cookout

    Tags: Food And Drinks, Performance, Picnic Spot, Rides

    Address: 25453 SD-87, Custer, SD 57730, United States

    Timings: 02:00 pm - 08:00 pm Details

    The old fashion Chuck Wagon Hayride is actually quite an old tradition. The ride basically consists of a 45 minute ride on the back roads of this park, which ends up in a mountain meadow canyon for an...Read more

  12. # 12 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 105 times in trip plans
    Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour

    Tags: Safari, Tour

    Address: Custer State Park, 25453 Highway 87 Custer, SD 57730

    Timings: 08:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    Most people don’t even know elk, noble buffalo and pronghorns because they cannot be found easily. The Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour offers you a perfect opportunity to go off-road and spot Buffaloes...Read more

  13. # 13 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 123 times in trip plans
    Guided Horseback Trail Rides

    Tags: Trail, Rides

    Address: 25453 SD-87, Custer, SD 57730, United States

    Horseback Rides depart from Blue bell lodge and are a perfect way to spend some time with you and your loved ones enjoying an outdoor activity. You can choose to go on a one hour ride or a two hour ri...Read more

  14. # 14 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 108 times in trip plans
    Beaver Lake Chuckwagon

    Tags: Food And Drinks, Entertainment, Performance

    Address: 12005 West US Hwy 16, Custer, SD 57730

    Centered at the Beaver Lake Campground, the Beaver Lake Chuckwagon Supper and Cowboy Music Show is a show you should not miss out on! This particular show gives you a chance to catch the authenti...Read more

  15. # 15 of 122 Things To Do in Custer | Added 414 times in trip plans
    Badlands National Park

    Tags: National Park, Camp, Wildlife Safari, Scenic Drive

    Address: Badlands National Park, 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    The Badlands road is a scenic drive of around 30 miles. The loop road runs on South Dakota Highway 240 that passes through the main section of the park. Picturesque views along the way offer you ample...Read more

Activities And Tours

Explore these activities and tours for awesome experiences in Custer:

  • Save 4% Black Hills Hot Air Balloon Ride
    Black Hills Hot Air Balloon Ride2 Reviews

    Duration: 1 Hrs

    Enjoy a spectacular hot air balloon ride over the beautiful and historic Black Hills of South Dakota with a complimentary Cha...

    Book Now
  • Save 2% Custer State Park Buffalo Safari Tour
    Custer State Park Buffalo Safari TourNew on TripHobo

    Duration: 7 Hrs

    Please note that this is a Safari tour in one of our convertible top Vans . . . this is not a Jeep tour. However it does go t...

    Book Now
  • Save 2% Winter Mt Rushmore Safari Tour
    Winter Mt Rushmore Safari TourNew on TripHobo

    Duration: 7 Hrs

    This Safari Touroffers unparalleled picturesque wildlife viewing and you'll learn the region'shistory from our experienced gu...

    Book Now