The town of Custer may not seem like much, however, this small town in South Dakota is an excellent base for anyone who want to explore the Black Hills National Forest of the United States and the surrounding region. The area is also home to some of the best things to do and attractions in the state, such as the Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer State Park, the Needles, the 1881 Courthouse Museum, and most famous, Mount Rushmore, only around a thirty-minute drive outside of town. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Custer State Park
Custer State Park draw people in with its rolling plains, granite peaks, open ranges, and inviting clear mountain waters. Spanning across approximately seventy-one thousand acres of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Custer State Park is home to an abundance of adventure, such as fishing, swimming, biking, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, or simply relaxing. The park is particularly well known for bison herds, interpretive programs, campgrounds, fishing lakes, visitor centers, historic sites, and scenic drives. Custer State Park has even been listed as one of the “Top Ten Wildlife Destinations” in the world thanks to its variety of wildlife.
13329 US Hwy 16A, Custer, SD 57730, Phone: 605-255-4515
2.Iron Mountain Road
The Iron Mountain Road near Custer, South Dakota is a memorable and incredible journey for anyone who ventures down it. Known also as 16A, this road is considered by many to be one of the country’s most captivating and unusual roads. With the natural beauty of the valleys and the mountains as the backdrop, the Iron Mountain Road was designed specifically to include a large number of curves, or switchback, that result in the speed of cars being limited to thirty-five in order for travelers to be able to take in the beautiful Black Hills National Forest region.
US 16 near Keystone, SD
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3.Black Hills National Forest
The Black Hills National Forest was established by President Grover Cleveland in the year 1897, originally as the Black Hills Forest Reserve. Visitors can explore unique caves, lakes, streams, grasslands, canyons, and rugged rock formations across the expansive timbered mountains that stretch beyond the border of South Dakota and into the state of Wyoming. Opportunities for outdoor recreational activities include more than 450 miles of trails, more than 13,000 acres of wilderness, two scenic byways, thirty campgrounds, and eleven reservoirs. The Black Hills National Forest covers a total area of 65 miles in width and 125 miles long.
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4.Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer, SD
© National Parked/stock.adobe.com
The Jewel Cave National Monument offers visitors a chance to explore the world’s third longest cave, consisting of more than two hundred miles of surveyed and mapped passages that appeal to the human curiosity. The splendor of Jewel Cave is revealed through glimpses of vivid color and fragile formations. In order to discover the underground wilderness, adventurers will need to join a ranger-led cave tour, with tickets offered on-site on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s advised that visitors arrive early and get their tickets for the day in the morning, as they often sell out during holiday weekends or peak season.
11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730
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5.Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is a complement of the Custer State Park’s three scenic drive and boasts some of the Black Hills National Forest’s most dramatic historic and natural features. The scenic loop consists of four different highways: US Route 16A, SD 244, SD 89, and SD 87. Sites people will see along the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway include the Mount Rushmore National Monument, the Needles, and an amazing view of the forested hills and rocky peaks of the Black Hills. Along the way, visitors may also spot a variety of wildlife, such as deer and mountain goats.
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6.Black Hills Playhouse, Custer, South Dakota
© Black Hills Playhouse
The Black Hills Playhouse in the town of Custer, South Dakota is a place where both tourists and local residents alike of the Black Hills region can come and experience drama, comedy, romance, and musicals within the beautiful and rustic setting of the Custer State Park. The playhouse features air conditioning, a casual atmosphere, pleasant picnic grounds, and concessions. The Black Hills Playhouse was established to provide high quality entertainment for the people of the Black Hills rural region, as well as visitors to the area, and also provide opportunities for employment and training to theatre professionals and students.
24834 S. Playhouse Rd, Custer, SD 57730, Phone: 605-255-4141
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7.1881 Courthouse Museum, Custer, South Dakota
© 1881 Courthouse Museum
The 1881 Courthouse Museum was founded in 1976 by the Custer County Historical Society as a dedication to preserving the courthouse of Custer City that first opened its doors in January of 1881, eight years prior to South Dakota becoming a state. This courthouse served as Custer County’s hub from 1881 up until 1974, acting as a government center, as well as a meeting place for community activities, socials, and church services during its early years. The museum is open seven days a week between the months of May and September and features a wide variety of artifacts and exhibits.
411 Mt Rushmore Rd, Custer, SD 57730, Phone: 605-673-2443
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8.Pizza Works, Custer, South Dakota
© Pizza Works
Pizza Works believes “that the best Pizza doesn’t cut any corners,” and aims to prove that belief in their food. For more than twenty years, the pizzeria has been making hand-tossed and hand-crafted pizzas right in front of customers’ eyes, using their own secret and unique recipe for pizza dough that is made fresh every day in small batches using the best possible ingredients available Pizza Works also makes its own sauce and grinds its own Wisconsin cheese on-site every day, topping pizzas with fresh cheese, meats, and vegetables before baking them in a stone oven.
429 Mt. Rushmore Rd, Custer, SD 57730, Phone: 605-673-2020
8 Best Things to Do in Custer, South Dakota
- Custer State Park, Photo: Matt/stock.adobe.com
- Iron Mountain Road, Photo: johnsroad7/stock.adobe.com
- Black Hills National Forest, Photo: Anatolii/stock.adobe.com
- Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer, SD, Photo: National Parked/stock.adobe.com
- Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, Photo: Matt/stock.adobe.com
- Black Hills Playhouse, Custer, South Dakota, Photo: Black Hills Playhouse
- 1881 Courthouse Museum, Custer, South Dakota, Photo: 1881 Courthouse Museum
- Pizza Works, Custer, South Dakota, Photo: Pizza Works
- Cover Photo: stock.adobe.com
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