Is the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park Really Wild?
No. Surprised? The Wildlife Road Loop in Custer State Park meanders through 71,000 acres of parkland. While you'll be able to see all kinds of animals including Bison, Prairie Dogs, Pronghorn Antelope, Elk, Bighorn Sheep and more, the park is contained within that acreage. It's a fantastic place to see wildlife, but make no mistake about it, the park is fenced in.
A few gates exist with cattle guards to keep many of the animals in the bounds of the park, but the rest is wide open. When coming to the Black Hills of South Dakota this is a must-do on the bucket list. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people talk about Custer State Park, but when asked about the Wildlife Loop Road they look at me confused.
The reason for this is while there are many fine Black Hills van and bus tours, roads are restricted by vehicle type. This means that generally speaking, if you're on a 50-passenger bus, you'll miss some of the most important parts of South Dakota tours. Vehicles with high clearance and big windows area extremely important. The ability to go down winding, rolling dirt roads is a huge plus here. One way to make sure that you'll see everything you'd like is to book a private tour to the Black Hills.
The loop takes more than an hour to drive, given the speed limit. Keep your camera and binoculars ready and be sure to look along the tree line. There’s lots of animals up there that people miss. Experienced guides can help by spotting these creatures and stopping along the way so you can view, learn and even listen to their sounds. Prairie Dogs bark, or chirp while Bison grunt!
It’s my personal opinion that visiting the park in early summer is the best. You’ll see wildflowers everywhere, and the baby Bison (Red Dogs) playing with their newborn friends. If you decide to do this on your own, make sure you’ve got a map. The roads can be winding, narrow and confusing. It’s easy to make a wrong turn and miss some important places.
Either way you do it, the Wildlife Loop Road is fun and interesting for all ages. It’s a must do, and even though it’s not technically wild, you’ll not even know the difference. Come visit the mountains and prairies of South Dakota.