There is no better way to learn about nature and history than up close and personal.

We got just the kind of education while in the Black Hills, especially at…

Custer State Park is the second largest state park in the United States, with over 70,000 acres of natural beauty. The beauty is all around you from the moment you start your drive…

Driving through gorgeous, winding roads – the kind that require you to drive 10 mph or less – is part of the experience of Custer State Park.

Needles Highway is a 14 mile scenic drive in the middle of the park, but don’t consider it as a way to quickly get where you need to be next! That 14-mile drive will take you at least 45 minutes and you will love every minute of it, including passing by gorgeous needle-like rock formations and Sylvan Lake and passing THROUGH tunnels, many of which are only wide enough for one car at a time!

Another must-drive in Custer State Park is the Wildlife Loop. The park holds over 1,000 free-roaming buffalo as well as mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and burros! Since the animals are free to roam, you never know what you’ll see on any given day but it is worth a shot!

We had the privilege of searching for animals in another way…

Custer State Park Resort offers some fun adventure options in the park, including their Off-Road Buffalo Safari Jeep Tours! Does that sound like a perfect boy activity or what?!

Well, we didn’t pick the best weather day to head out in an open-air jeep, but our guide Kasey made the best of it for us.

Friends, it was 45 degrees, windy, rainy and foggy. At the end of May. Yuck.

But we learned a lot from our guide that we wouldn’t have by just driving the loop ourselves. Yes, we would have been warm, but we had blankets and hoods in the jeep!

{That’s my dad. He let me wear his stocking hat. I love him.}

The boys were so comfy they even fell asleep.

Don’t worry, they woke up when we found these…

And this…

Do you know what that is?

I wouldn’t have known without Kasey! Buffalo can’t roll over because of the way their back is shaped, but they like to “wallow” like many other animals. So this is the imprint left when a buffalo is done cooling him or herself off!

We also learned a lot about the history of the park and the people who lived here before it came a park, including Native Americans and homesteaders.

And then there was the off-roading. We were traveling on roads no other vehicles are allowed to go on which totally spells adventure. On a side note, I’m pretty sure many of the roads we traveled on that afternoon were probably washed out by that evening. We hit some pretty big “puddles!”

Unfortunately, we didn’t come upon any of the larger herds of buffalo during our drive like we hoped, but on our way back to the office, we did come upon these guys…

{Buffalo, if you couldn’t tell through the fog and rain.}

They must have had the same thoughts as me about the weather.

With free-roaming wildlife, it is always a gamble what you will see, but that is part of the adventure! We were so glad to have Kasey as our guide – such a great attitude and very knowledgable!

As we left our safari ride to head back to my friend’s wedding, which was also in Custer State Park at beautiful Sylvan Lake, we finally got our close encounter…

Mr. Buffalo, right next to the road, with us all warm and snuggly in our van. Oh well – that was a fun find!

The safari jeep tour is on the expensive side, but if your children are really interested in wildlife, nature and/or history and love adventure, I think it is worth the investment once in your lives!

Just double check the weather before you make your reservation! 🙂


Come back tomorrow for part 5 in the Head for the Hills series: Monumental Sights!


Disclaimer: Head for the Hills is a sponsored series with the South Dakota Department of Tourism. We were compensated for portions of our trip, but all opinions in this series are 100% our own!

You can connect with the friendly and helpful people at the South Dakota Department of Tourism on Twitter and Facebook! Tell them Home with the Boys sent you!