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Welcome to Black Hills

Black Hills

Home to the tallest peaks east of the Rockies, the Black Hills are part of the western region of South Dakota, an area with endless monuments and parks, most popular with visitors. Blessed with towering peaks, blankets of forests and meandering rivers, Black Hills is a pristine haven for fishing, biking, hiking, camping and rock climbing as well as sightseeing. Native Americans have inhabited the area since 7000 B.C. making the Black Hills a region of spiritual and historical significance. Ownership of land passed through the hands of many Indian tribes, resting with the Lakota who still reside there today. The setting of the last Indian War between the Lakota, enterprising gold miners and the United States, ownership of the Black Hills is still a contested topic today.

The diverse geology of the Black Hills as well as its abundance of indigenous flora and fauna is what attracts visitors each year. In Badlands National Park, erosion has created a terrain of desolate beauty, with sharp buttes, twisting spires and deep gorges. It is also one of the world's richest fossil beds. In Jewel Cave, the third longest cave in the world, visitors can explore miles of underground passageways with stunning rock formations. Scenic drives through Custer State Park offer amazing encounters with the once-endangered bison, now flourishing in free-roaming herds.

Black Hills is also the setting for the popular HBO series Deadwood, which is in fact filmed in California. The City Fathers of Deadwood have created a false wooden street front based on the original town and similar to the one on the television series. But for more mammoth attractions, Black Hills is also home to one of America's famous landmarks, Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, the world's largest sculpture, on which work has been underway since 1948.

Information & Facts


Black Hills enjoys a continental climate with four distinct seasons. The area is known to be susceptible to wide ranging weather systems from raging blizzards to blistering droughts. During the winter months snowstorms do occur, but Black Hills is often warmer than Rapid City in the winter due to its elevated position and a temperature inversion. During the summer months days are sunny and warm but afternoon thunderstorms are common. May and June are the wettest months of the year.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The Lakota - the Native American tribe that was led for many years by Chief Sitting Bull - gave this area of South Dakota the name "mako sica", which translates to "land bad". They weren't exaggerating, and modern-day visitors to Badlands National Park should brace themselves for an unsettling, and truly otherworldly, terrestrial experience. The landscape, drenched and wind-blasted for millennia, has been formed into a series of sharp ridges, steep-walled canyons, gullies, pyramids and buttes; with the exposed rock often appearing in beautiful bands of colour, from deep purple, through vermilion, to orange and gold. Visitors to Badlands National Park will find plenty of well-signed hiking trails, and first-class camping facilities. Whatever you do, don't forget to pack your camera.

Deadwood grew into a mythical Wild West town in the 1800s, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills. It quickly became home to a colourful cast of prospectors, gunslingers and gamblers. Today, the brick-paved streets, frontier architecture and turn-of-the-century streetlamps have been carefully restored. The entire town has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can relax in a historic hotel on Main Street, have a drink at the local saloon, try their luck at the casino, pan for gold at the Broken Boot Mine and climb to the Mount Moriah Cemetery to visit the graves of notorious Old West legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane and enjoy a breathtaking view of the hills. Deadwood's notorious reputation inspired the hit television series Deadwood, which takes place during the town's early rough and tumble days.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is literally South Dakota's biggest attraction, covering 1,278.45 acres (5.17 km2)and drawing over two million visitors annually. It was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum between 1927 and 1941, along with 400 workers, creating 60 foot (18m) carvings of US Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. The entire project cost under one million dollars and, somewhat remarkably given the danger of the work, no-one died during its completion. The sculpture is controversial among native Americans as a previous treaty had granted the land and mountain, known as Six Fathers, to the Lakota tribe.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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