It’s easy to forget just how big the Black Hills are. Spanning over 1.2 million acres, they host an infinite number of attractions and things to do. It would take years to see it all. That makes this a great place to vacation and you can stay as as long, or little, as you’d like. We recommend planning for at least 3 days but you could easily stay entertained for weeks. Here’s our perfect Black Hills Vacation Itinerary.
Day 1 – Catch up on R&R
After a long day of traveling, you’ll probably want to lay low this first night and relax. If you’re coming in from the east, Wall Drug is worth a visit on the way in! We would also grab groceries on the way to the cabin so we had a stocked fridge of snacks and beer. Then, you can sit back on your cabin’s patio and start to settle in.
Day 2 – Get Out and Go Sight Seeing
Ahh, your first full day in paradise. Wake up with a cup of coffee on the deck, bundled up in a cozy sweater or blanket. Mornings can be a little chilly but the crisp air mixed with the scent of the pine is unparalleled. When you’re done, it’s a good time to head out for an adventure.
Most of South Dakota’s top attractions are near Rapid City, where we live! Make sure you stop by Tally’s Silver Spoon for breakfast and order the Cinnamon Swirl French toast (made from their famous cinnamon rolls), the Migas, or their revolving specials. Honestly, everything on their menu is great. Kia’s parents had their first date here nearly 30 (ouch) years ago.
Next up, snap your photo at Mount Rushmore, Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, or Keystone Adventure Park. Downtown Rapid City is also a great place for exploring and shopping. Don’t miss Art Alley, while you’re there.
The dining scene is pretty good in Rapid City! Try Justin Warner’s ramen restaurant, Bokujo; Delmonico Grill for upscale dining; Kathmandu for Napalese; or the Bison Meatloaf at Murphy’s Pub. You’re likely to find live Nashville-quality music at many of the bars downtown.
Day 3 – Try New Activities
If it’s warm enough, the Black Hills offer some of the best hiking you’ll find. We also have incredible mountain biking trails, ATV’s, and lakes for boating. During winter months, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing are great options! If you’re rather rest up and relax, The Nook is our favorite spa in the area.
Since we’re planning OUR dream trip here, we would probably head to Spearfish and explore the canyon. Spearfish Canyon is a fun drive and takes about an hour. The canyon hosts tons of unique hiking opportunities from Roughlock Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Falls, the Devil’s Bathtub, 420 Hollow and more. Take the road slow here, as it winds sharply through the rock face. Let us know if you’d like a guide >>
We usually grab breakfast or lunch in Spearfish. Blackbird Cafe has incredible acai bowls and pasties, along with gourmet coffee. Green Bean Coffee is another favorite for their breakfast sandwiches. We said “I do” in Spearfish Park nearby. If you’re up for a hike, Crow Peak is about 4 miles round-trip and is accessible north of town, rather than on the canyon.
If you decide to go all the way through the canyon, it’s a good time to explore Historic Deadwood. Jakobs Brewery and Snitches are our favorite places for a sit-down meal. As for bars, we always (always) start at Oyster Bay, head downstairs for a cigar at Deadwood Tobacco Company, and meander down the street to Saloon-10 to enjoy some live music. It’s always in that order – a good luck charm, if you will. Let us know if you try it.
Day 4 – Enjoy the Southern Southern Hills
We’ll bet you a lucky jackrabbit foot that you’ll want to start the morning on your patio again. Day 3 of your vacation is perfect for exploring around your cabin (assuming it’s public land – check first) and a little more unwinding. Or if you’re an avid outdoors-person, maybe you’ll get up and going on the trails again! We aren’t early morning people but we do love to see sunrise on a mountaintop. This is the one (and only) time you’ll see us up before the sun.
The southern Black Hills is highly underrated. Explore the Wildlife loop in Custer State Park to see wild bison, donkeys, big horn sheep, and deer, to name a few. As part of a state park, there is an entrance fee of $20 but it’s well worth it, especially if you have kiddos along. You can also access Sylvan Lake as part of your pass and go hiking or rent a kayak there. This is one of the most scenic places in the Black Hills and you may even see a wedding or two happening!
Consider grabbing dinner close by, as every city in the hills has great local eateries if you know where to look or who to ask (hi). You’re also more than welcome to cook at your cabin, if you’d like. It’s fully stocked with tools and cookware.
Day 5 – Visit the Northern Hills
If it were us, we’d beat the sun for a morning hike or a full day on the ski slopes. You could also explore Sturgis (home of the famous Sturgis rally) or a neat small town like Hill City, Keystone, or Silver City, or look for the many abandoned mines throughout the hills. It’s also a good time to explore some more trails and hike Black Elk Peak or Old Baldy. Also check out the work of John Lopez, a South Dakota artist residing in Lemmon, South Dakota.
Day 6+ – Exploring
You’ve squeezed a lot of action into the past 5 days so now we’d spend our time relaxing, returning to our favorite spots, or finding new trails. There are enough of them in the Black Hills to stay busy for months (if not years) and never see the same thing twice!