As we started driving through South Dakota, Joe and I were both immediately impressed. Strange, I know, but stick with us.
The road leading us into Custer was winding through hills and trees. Trees?! In South Dakota?! Yep!
Now, we will admit, this Washington pair clearly had some false perceptions of this state (South Dakota).
The southwest corner of South Dakota is home to the Black Hills, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and the Badlands National Park.
The first few nights we stayed at the Bismarck Lake Campground just outside of Custer. This place was super cool, had decent cell service at the top of the hill, and was very quiet.
We spent a Thursday working in town (which was only 7 mins from the campground) at Calamity Jane’s Winery Mercantile.
After work we wanted to explore the state park, so we headed up to the Sylvan Lake area that afternoon at around 5pm, and went for a hike on the Sunday Gulch trail.
Sylvan Lake itself is something you should NOT miss if you are in the area. The rock formations are crazy and make for some epic photos!
The Sunday Gulch Trail is also something you should consider tackling.
It’s a 4’ish mile round trip hike with some technical components, where railings have been set up and water flows over the trail.
Also, a few sections of the trail wind you through rocks where you follow the outflow stream from the lake before traversing over some hills and ending back at the lake.
It was a loop, and we love loops!
We ended our hike right around sunset and it was magical! Who knew South Dakota could be this amazing, Joe and I were sold and knew we would be coming back sometime in the future.
Because the trail was so spectacular the night before we woke up Friday, had a quick lifting session in the campground before packing up and heading back to Sylvan Lake.
This time we chose the Harney Peak Lookout, now known as Black Elk Peak. It was a fairly easy run with a nice climb at the end to the highest point in South Dakota at about 7,300 feet.
At the top you end up at an old fire lookout tower that is made of stone that you can climb around (along with the surrounding peak). It was neat!
After exploring the lookout we headed off on another trail to complete our loop for the day.
On top of the tower we had amazing 360 degree views of the state park and Black Hills.
Fun fact on our way up we also ran into two gentleman we had camped next to back in Glacier! The world is small folks! Very small.
All in all, I think we ran just about ten miles, and it was time for food!
I had my eye on a cinnamon roll the size of my face that was at Calamity Jane’s, so we headed there first for a quick pre dinner snack and some coffee (or course) while we waited for the Black Hills Burger and Bun Co to open.
After a brief sugar high… we grabbed burgers and (our favorite) sweet potato fries, to go from Black Hills Burger and Bun Co.
We stuffed our faces, and were feeling fat and happy, so we took a quick jaunt down to Wind Cave National Park (only about a twenty minute drive) to find a campsite!
Needless to say, Custer State Park was a super cool area and we were so glad our path led us there. It is someplace that we will recommend to everyone we meet and hopefully make it back to someday to explore more!