Home to the tallest peaks east of the Rocky Mountains, the Black Hills exist in the western region of South Dakota. Blessed with towering summits, sprawling forests, and meandering rivers, the Black Hills are a pristine haven for sightseeing, fishing, hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Native American peoples have inhabited the area since 7,000 BC, making the Black Hills a site of spiritual and historical significance. Ownership has passed through many hands, resting today with the Lakota. There is a history of conflict, with it experiencing bloodshed and massacre during the Great Sioux War of 1876.
The diverse geology of the Back Hills attracts visitors each year, as well as its abundance of indigenous flora and fauna. Erosion has formed a terrain of desolate beauty in Badlands National Park, with sharp buttes, twisting spires, deep gorges, and one of the richest fossil beds on the planet.
Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world, with visitors exploring miles of underground passageways and stunning rock formations. Scenic drives through Custer State Park provide amazing encounters with the once-endangered bison that now flourish in free-roaming herds.
Black Hills is also the setting for the popular HBO series , although it was 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.
Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic attractions in South Dakota, and indeed the country. Carved into Thunderhead Monument, the Crazy Horse Memorial has been in construction since 1948 and would potentially be the largest sculpture in the world on completion.
Deadwood in South Dakota 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.
Brick streets, frontier architecture, and turn-of-the-century streetlamps are restored, with the entire town designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can relax in a historic hotel on Main Street, have a drink at the local saloon, or try their luck in one of 80 historic gambling halls.
One can pan for gold at the Broken Boot Mine or climb to the Mount Moriah Cemetery to visit the graves of notorious Old West legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. From the cemetery, there is a breathtaking view of the surrounding hills.
There are several historical museums in town, including the Adams Museum and the Days of '76 Museum. Deadwood's notorious reputation inspired the hit television series , which takes place during the town's early rough and tumble days.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is literally South Dakota's biggest attraction. It covers 1,278 acres (5 square km) and draws over two million annual visitors. It depicts 60-foot (18m) carvings of US Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, representing the first 150 years of American history.
Together with 400 workers, Gutzon Borglum sculpted Mount Rushmore between 1927 and 1941. Costing under one million dollars, it's somewhat remarkable that nobody died from the dangerous nature of the work during its creation.
Interestingly, the artist originally intended the faces to have bodies. 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.
Visitors to the site stroll through the Avenue of Flags that depicts all 50 states, walk the Presidential Trail to the best viewing areas, and watch the evening lighting ceremony held nightly at 9pm. The site has a visitors centre, gift shop, and cafe.
The Lakota tribe gave this area of South Dakota the name Mako Sica, translating roughly to 'bad land'. The people led by Chief Sitting Bull weren't exaggerating, as modern visitors to Badlands National Park brace themselves for an unsettling and otherworldly terrestrial experience.
Drenched and blasted by winds for millennia, the landscape is a series of sharp ridges, steep canyons, gullies, pyramids, and buttes. Exposed rock often appears in beautiful bands of colour, from deep purples through to vermillion, orange, and gold.
Trips to Badlands National Park offer hiking trails with plenty of signage and first-class camping facilities. Programmes with rangers are available, including children's activities, hikes, lectures, and audio-visual presentations.
Exhibits display fossils from ancient plants and animals, alongside the pretty wildflowers. Guests can also take advantage of the Night Sky Program, enjoying the clear blanket of darkness studded with silver stars. Rangers will help to identify constellations and planets.
Located near popular Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Memorial is carved out of Thunderhead Mountain and depicts the eponymous and iconic Sioux warrior mounted on a horse. Work began all the way back in 1948.
Currently incomplete, the memorial nevertheless includes the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center. Both contain art collections and other artefacts, offering visitors the chance to learn more about the culture of the Plains Indians like the Lakota and the Sioux.
Various events occur throughout the year, including rodeos, laser light and pyrotechnic shows, and art exhibitions. The Crazy Horse Memorial is privately funded and relies on admission fees and donations to continue construction of the monument.
The 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.
The 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.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination