"An emerald isle in a sea of prairie," as they are sometimes called, the Black Hills rise up from the western South Dakota plains just over the Wyoming state line and about 150 miles east of the Big Horn range of the Rocky Mountains. They aren't as high—Harney Peak, their tallest summit, measures 7,242 feet—and they cover a territory only 50 miles wide and 120 miles long, but these ponderosa-covered mountains have a majesty all their own. Alpine meadows, thick forests, and creek-carved canyons: the landscape of the Black Hills and Badlands region more closely resembles Big Horn and Yellowstone country than it does South Dakota's typical flat farmland.
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Things You Can't Miss
At Mount Rushmore, take a moment to examine the eyes of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. They sparkle, thanks to shallow recesses in the carved granite.
A work in progress since 1948, a monument of Lakota warrior leader Crazy Horse is being carved out of the side of Thunderhead Mountain.
Michele Falzone / Alamy
The 1880 train offers a different way to see the Black Hills. Catch the restored steam locomotive at Hill City or Keystone for a two-hour round trip.
Only a small section of Wind Cave’s 140 miles are mapped. There’s an easy one-hour tour or a four-hour expedition requiring kneepads and hard hats.
Tom Bean / Alamy
Main Street Square in Rapid City, 25 miles northeast of Rushmore, offers a contrast to the state’s wild side. Enjoy omelets at Tally’s Silver Spoon restaurant.
Discover the very best of Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.
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