Snow, its cherished here in the Black Hills. We call it white gold, champagne powder…the good stuff. We find ways to enjoy our winter wonderland because we typically get a lot of snow and far, fffaaaaarrrrr less cold then our neighbors (which is scientifically supported by historical data, not just our opinion).
Which of course means there’s no chance for cabin fever here in the Black Hills as a perfectly groomed trail, a good base, a day on the slopes, some oddly unique winter event or an evening hockey game help keep all that funk away. So if you have the cabin fever and are suffering in a bad way, we suggest a Black Hills three-day getaway!
This is just three days and only a few of the things unique to the winter season in the Black Hills. Unlike much of the frozen plains that surround it, the Black Hills mild weather encourages people to get out and take in all the amazing events and outdoor activities offered here. Its a winter wonderland that can do wonders for even the worse cases of cabin fever or seasonal depression.
Take this chance to view one or more of the national parks and monuments that we have here because once you start playing around on the trails and slopes, sightseeing may seem (unfairly) like a little bit of a bore. Of course it shouldn’t, what with the mild winter weather, the many days of sunshine the Black Hills receive and with places like Badlands National Park or Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but just in case, we’ll start leisurely.
If you haven’t been, Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a must and start the morning here. Its on many people’s bucket list for a reason as its an amazing sculpture and truly America’s Shrine of Democracy. Plan on a couple of hours on the grounds, taking pictures with a beautiful crisp blue cool sky and checking out the Presidential Trail.
From here, we suggest either heading to Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind Cave National Park and/or Jewel Cave National Monument. All are open during the winter and offer most of their programs. Wind Cave has cave tours at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and Jewel Cave’s most popular Scenic Tour is offered on Wed. – Fri., 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Both Black Hills caves are in the top six largest caves in the entire world and if it does happen to be a cold day, the cave temps are consistent 50-ish degrees year-round. Speaking of largest in the world, Crazy Horse just happens to be the largest mountain carving with an amazing collection of native art and artifacts.
As for Custer State Park, winter is one of the best times for wildlife viewing and the like the other parks in the Black Hills, you’ll almost have the place to yourself. The park also has ample opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and/or hiking on its many trails, which again, you’ll have almost to yourself!
Once your day is done, be sure to check out some of the nearby wineries, breweries and/or amazing places to grab a bite in Custer/Hill City/Hot Springs/Rapid City area. There are some amazing local beer and/or wines to be had along with the best burger joint in the entire nation or some great local game options like buffalo, elk and others.
Since downhill skiing/snowboarding is probably the most physical activity, we suggest that for day two. There are two ski areas in the Black Hills right outside of Lead and annually they receive over 200 inches of snow. Between both Terry Peak and Ski Mystic at Deer Mountain, there are over 600 acres of ski territory, over 80 trails that total over 30 miles! That means the variety is there so whether its corduroy or moguls, terrain parks or some intense tubing, there’s something for every member of the group to enjoy. And of course, both offer full equipment rentals, ski schools or training, restaurants and bars for an enjoyable full day on the mountain.
After words, head into the nearby communities of Lead, Deadwood, Spearfish, Sturgis, Belle Fourche or Hulett for more amazing local beer, wine, sparkling wine and local cuisine. Again, there are some pretty fantastic places doing everything from burgers and beer, to local wine (sparkling even) damn good steaks and impressive fine dining. Deadwood even offers up many games of chance to keep you busy well into the night with everything from poker and blackjack, to slots, craps and roulette (craps and roulette coming July 2015).
The Black Hills encompass thousands and thousands of square miles of forested mountains and valleys and with an expansive groomed-trail system, snowmobiles are a fun way to go explore them. The Black Hills trail system, keeping with the theme of the area, offers so much variety for its riders and is one hell of a way to spend your last day here.
Much of the trail system is near the ski areas in what the locals call the Northern Black Hills but they do go down as far south as Deerfield Lake outside of Hill City and into northeastern Wyoming. Check out the Black Hills Snowmobile map to find trail heads and entry points near your accommodations, which there are many by the way, that sit right on or near the system. You can unload your sled at your stay and jump right on.
For those who have never been or don’t own a snowmobile, there are numerous snowmobile rental places in the area which have everything you need for a day playing in the Black Hills forest. We suggest checking out the new rentals at Mystic Hills Hideaways which also has cabins for rent and are located right on the Black Hills Trail System. There are also numerous hotel/resorts on the trail that have rentals making it about as convenient as it could possibly be, checkout Spearfish Canyon Lodge, Trailshead Lodge and Mountain Meadow Resort at Deerfield Lake. Of course you can get just a sled from any of these or you can check out pure outfitters like Black Hills Offroad Rentals.