The drives around Custer Park are some of the more beautiful - through forests, interesting rock formations, and past a couple of small lakes. Allow yourself plenty of time. Traffic doesn't move very fast because of the winding roads, traffic, and numerous sight-seers. After all, that's why most of us are there - to see the sights.
Stop here at the northwest corner of the Wildlife Loop road for some beautiful views of the park and black hills, as well as a few displays regarding forest fires. It's at the top of a small winding mountain road, and worth a few minutes to see.
We did spot this lonely coyote near the entrance to Wind Cave - he's in the middle of the picture. Needless to say, this park has a lot of wild animals to see. There also were prarie dogs and antelope.
As you can see, they aren't shy! The first guy got his head in the car before I could get my camera up, but I was ready for his friend. Apparently they are looking for handouts - spoiled even though you are told about a dozen times not to feed the animals! It's wild to see these guys just come on up to your car.
Pictures of these abound everywhere, and sure enough, as we turned south onto the Wildlife Loop Road from the visitor center, we ran into the herd. They're gigantic animals, so don't get too close. This was the first of three herds we ran into between Custer and Wind Cave NP.
The first set of animals we saw were a collection of rams sitting in the shade between Legion Lake and the visitor center. It's a little hard to pick them out in the picture due to the lighting, but there were about half a dozen sitting there.
Take a break at one of the pullouts to view these granite peaks that poke out of the forest. There are more trails to get closer views, but we didn't have an opportunity to try them. These are just east of the Sylvan Lake area.
Our trip through the park started in the Northwestern section of the park, so our first stop was Sylvan Lake. There is an opportunity for paddleboat/kayak rentals during the season. If boating isn't your thing, there is a short trail you can walk along the lake where you can take in the very blue water and some of the surrounding rock formations. The trail is supposed to be a loop around the lake, but we got blocked off about halfway around the lake and had to go back the way we came.
Buffalo abound in this state park. Therefore, if you have never seen a buffalo and it has been your lifelong desire to see one up close--make haste for southwest South Dakota. They are plentiful and it is impossible to take a drive of any length without bumping into quite a few of these fellas.
The Needles are a series of bizarrely shaped granite or basalt pinnacles that are located just beyond Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. If you enjoy rock climbing, they offer quite a challenge. If you don't, you can watch those who do enjoy risking their valuable necks.