Exploring the Black Hills

Growing up with the Black Hills as my backyard, I spent nearly every summer weekend camping, canoeing, hiking, fishing – anything to take advantage of the beautiful outdoors. My parents had little disposable income, but the Black Hills provided us with all the entertainment we needed.

For most of my childhood, our family vacations were spent within an hour’s drive of our home. Now called staycations, these close-to-home excursions provided an affordable getaway as we explored the amazing amenities of our community.

One weekend we would go to Hot Springs, eat lunch in the park
and ice cream at A&W, followed by an afternoon riding the slides at Evans Plunge. The next weekend we would be fishing at Horsethief Lake, or clif It was always an adventure.

Now as a mother, I try to do the same with my family. I have even started a tradition with my middle child. Each summer, before the start of the new school year, we spend an entire day playing tourist. We have ridden the Rapid City Trolley visiting all the local landmarks – Dinosaur Park being her favorite; we have snuggled with the Galapagos tortoises at Reptile Gardens; discovered some interesting facts about our country’s origin at the Founding Father’s Museum and raced down the Alpine Slide at Rushmore Tramway Adventures in Keystone.

You could spend weeks exploring the Black Hills. I have a few favorite adventures, so I thought I would share one of my perfect (adult-focused) summer days.

1. Morning Hike in Custer

Sunrise hike to Little Devil’s Tower (or sunset if you are not a morning person) – I love hiking and trail running and we have so many amazing trails, some that I have yet to discover. However, the journey to Little Devil’s Tower is one of my favorites – and to make it to the summit to watch the sunrise is even better (be sure to have a headlamp). You get a perfect view of the fire tower at Black Elk Peak – the highest point east of the Rockies.
After watching the sunrise, you can continue your journey to the top of Black Elk Peak where you get an amazing scenic view of the entire Black Hills which reaches into four states.

2. Sylvan Lake

Take a dip in Sylvan Lake – Nestled at the base of Black Elk Peak, Sylvan Lake is the perfect place to cool off after your miles of hiking. Surrounded by rock formations, it is a peaceful place to relax and take in the beauty of the Black Hills. It is also a great location to kayak or paddleboard.

3. Brunch

Brunch at Skogen Kitchen – Located in Custer, this adorable restaurant owned by Elisa, the general manager, and Joseph, the chef, has some of the most amazing and innovative food in the Hills. The quaint restaurant is always full, so reservations are needed, especially for breakfast. Aside from the delicious food, the guest service is top-notch.

4. Take a Scenic Drive

Scenic drive on Iron Mountain Road – This windy road takes you past Mt. Rushmore and includes one-lane tunnels, pigtail bridges and beautiful scenic stops. (Not a drive for those prone to carsickness.)

5. Sip Local

The best way to end the day is with a stop or two, maybe three, at some of
the wonderful local craft beer and wineries throughout the area. There is something for every palette. From the Firehouse Winery and Brewery to Rushmore Brewing and Lost Cabin, these establishments have made the Black Hills a destination for great wine, beer, and hospitality.

Whether you are exploring the outdoors or sitting on a patio sipping a glass of vino, the Black Hills has it all. Anyone up for an adventure this weekend?

Follow Michelle Pawelski:
Firehouse Wine Cellars general manager

2 Responses

  1. Diane Pawelski
    | Reply

    Awesome, Michelle, as always!

  2. OldSarg
    | Reply

    Very nice! Easy read, well written.

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