South Dakota’s Black Hills are chock-full of genuinely jaw-dropping wonders, ranging from Mount Rushmore itself to Needles Highway and Wind Cave National Park. There’s so much splendor within minutes of Rushmore Express that guests often have to forgo quintessential attractions if they’re trying to pack an entire vacation into two or three days. The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop should never be bypassed, however. No two visits to the Wildlife Loop are alike, as you never know where and when South Dakota’s most spellbinding animals will surface.

Plan a Visit to the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop

Photo of a Bison on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.

The 18-mile Custer State Park Wildlife Loop, as seen on this detailed map, covers a healthy portion of terrain between Keystone and the aforementioned Wind Cave National Park. The state park’s various furry inhabitants have 71,000 acres of rolling countryside to explore. Because much of the landscape remains uninhabited by humans and wholly unindustrialized, the animals feel confident enough to meander within feet of vehicles. Unquestionably, the best time to motor down Wildlife Loop Road is in the early morning because the roads fill with tourists during peak hours, effectively startling some of the area’s timider creatures. Don’t be afraid to take a short detour down a dirt road as many of the animals don’t frequent the main loop. The lengthy French Creek Trail allows backpackers to survey the heart of the park, where native birds, whitetail deer, and bison roam.

The Wildlife Loop’s Inhabitants

Photo of a Pronghorn on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.Bison remain the Wildlife Loop’s main draw. While many of the park’s animals take refuge under ponderosa pines and Black Hills spruces, the bison freely frolic the grasslands. Approximately 1,350 bison reside in Custer State Park, and they love to frequent the pavement. Vehicles can park within a foot of these majestic beasts. If possible, we highly recommend visiting the area in mid-June when hundreds of newborn calves are just finding their legs. Pronghorns, whitetail deer, jovial prairie dogs, and hungry burros will certainly be visible during your 90-minute journey.

Feeding animals is strictly prohibited on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop, but, boy, do the burros love a crisp carrot. Meanwhile, it’s always a treat to listen to the chatty prairie dogs as they chirp, perch, and scurry. While it’s rare to spot bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, burrowing owls, coyotes, and mountain lions, they all thrive in the park’s dense backcountry and rugged hillsides. So, keep your eyes peeled!

Affordable Lodging in Keystone, SD

Luckily for prospective guests, Rushmore Express’ classic Keystone lodging is in the center of all the action. After driving around the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop, you’ll only be a short (and undeniably scenic) drive from Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake, Cathedral Spires, and Crazy Horse Memorial. As one of the most affordable hotels near Mount Rushmore, families flock to our cozy Keystone inn during summer’s radiance and autumn’s peak. We’re centrally located near the area’s best attractions, restaurants, scenic drives, and shops. On-site amenities include fireplaces, free Wi-Fi, flatscreen televisions, deluxe bathrooms, and ample Midwestern character. Please give us a call today at 605-666-4483 to book a long-overdue family escape to beautiful South Dakota!