Blazing hot days in July and August are relieved by cool evenings, but the summer months in Black Hills National Forest are overflowing with tourists and families. Traffic through the area’s National Scenic Byways, such as Spearfish Canyon and Peter Norbeck, can be as thick as the forests. In particular, those seeking solitude should avoid the first two weeks of August, when families squeak in vacations at the last minute and the hills fill with the rumble of thousands of motorcyclists celebrating Sturgis Bike Rally.
The weather in spring and fall is perfect for a visit. Although spring showers can fall in May, the hills are green and inspiring, and in early June, the area is more navigable than later in the month as schools let out. Daytime temperatures in September and October can be in the 70s. Weather-conscious outdoorsy folk can still explore more than 450 miles of trails, and die-hard hikers or mountain bikers can test their skills on the 111-mile Centennial Trail, which runs the length of the Black Hills between Bear Butte and Wind Cave National Park. Other outdoor activities include boating and fishing at many of the Forest’s lakes and reservoirs, with boat ramps at Bismarck, Deerfield, Pactola, and Sheridan lakes. Hunters descend on the Black Hills in late fall and throughout the winter, and many of the campgrounds and budget accommodations are sold out.
Black Hills National Forest is known for its blustery cold winter, and travelers should be advised of the severe weather in January through March that can dump up to 25 inches of snow at a time.
However, for winter sports enthusiasts, this is prime time for revving up snowmobiles.