Wildlife and Wild Sights in South Dakota - Page 2

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Outdoor Fix: The Needles at Custer State Park  (PhotoDisc)

Days Two, Three, and Four: Keystone to Custer State Park (25 Miles)
Grab some pancakes and a side of buffalo sausage at The Powder House (605.666.4646), a log cabin in Keystone. Then head 17 miles southwest on Highway 16 to the Crazy Horse Memorial (605.673.4681; www.crazyhorse.org). This vast sculpture, billed as the world's largest, was started in 1948 and is still not complete! You can see the warrior on horseback and the outline of his outstretched hand pointing out towards this great land of the Sioux.

From Crazy Horse, take Highway 87 as it switchbacks through forest and then squeezes through granite on one of the most exciting drives in the country, the so-called Needles Highway. More buffalo await, in the form of burgers and stews, at the Lakota Dining Room in the Sylvan Lake Resort (800.658.3530), whose location was chosen by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The stone and timber hotel offers exquisite views of Harney Peak. Standing at 7,242 feet, it's the highest mountain east of the Rockies. Reserve a site at the Blue Bell Campground in Custer State Park (800.710.2267; www.sdgfp.info) and you'll be sleeping in privacy under a canopy of ponderosa pine.

Next morning, wake up and see big game on the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road through Custer State Park. Yellowstone might get all the hype, but Custer has its own herds of buffalo, as well as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, colonies of prairie dogs, and wild donkeys just itching for a free handout.

At the western exit of the Wildlife Loop Road, head five miles south on Highway 87 to reach Wind Cave National Park (605.745.4600; www.nps.gov/wica). A two-mile round-trip hike leads to the glorious vistas at Rankin Ridge Lookout.

On day four, rent bikes at Trailside Bikes (605.673.5526; www.trailsidebikes.com) in the nearby city of Custer. The George S. Mickelson Rail Trail is a perfect route for families. It follows the length of the former Burlington-Northern Rail Line from Deadwood all the way to Edgemont. In Custer, you can jump on the trail at Harbach City Park.

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