The Black Hills National Forest
consumes a portion (1.2 million acres or so) of southwest South Dakota
. It is bordered on the east by Rapid City
, on the north by Sturgis
, and reaches south to Hot Springs
The black hills themselves consist of highly rural, beautiful countryside. It has a very rolling countryside with many big hills and mountains, and also quite a few valleys filled with interesting small towns and scenic overviews.
Most of the black hills are sparsely populated. There are quite a few people that prefer the rural life and have built houses and cabins in the hills. Most of them do have electricity and phone service at their houses, but not much else. In many cases it's quite a drive for the inhabitants to the nearest grocery store, so they load up with food and other supplies in the early fall because snow a LOT it does in the hills. Most of the roads through the hills are either dirt or gravel, many of them maintained by the inhabitants themselves. If you make a visit, bring your 4 wheel drive vehicle.
Being the wilderness that it is, wildlife is extremely abundant in the hills. Deer, elk, wild turkeys, buffalo and many fish (rainbow trout among those) are found in the hills. These animals live in the wild so it is often no surprise to wake up and find them in your front yard sniffing the tires of your Honda.
If you enjoy the outdoors, you can engage in camping, hunting, off-roading, hiking, trout fishing, gold panning, star gazing and about 150,000 other outdoor recreations. If you want to play Quake III though, maybe you should stay home.
The weather in the Hills varies quite a bit; it can be very hot in the summer (as short as the summer is) and very cold in the winter. Snow may first appear in September and may not stop until April.
Inside the forest you will find many things. Famous among these are the well known Mount Rushmore National Monument and Crazy Horse Memorial. Deadwood, South Dakota is a well known tourist trap in the hills. In Hill City you will find the Alpine Inn where you will have the best dinner ever. Their menu consists of Filet Mignon and a quarter head of lettuce and dressing, and of course dessert. Custer State Park is a large preserve where you'll find very beautiful countryside with lots of wildlife. Jewel Cave National Monument is a very extensive subterranean expanse. The tour is absolutely worth it, and should not be missed. The Needles Highway is a very windy, curvy, beautiful road to drive, so be sure to bring along your motion sickness meds. heh.
In the late summer the Hills will be filled up with Harley Davidsons and their owners. If you like you might visit the extremely huge Sturgis Rally. There are people from all over the world that bring their bikes to this event each year.
The Black Hills are increasingly at risk of devastating forest fire in the last decade. There have been a couple of very bad fires that have burned tens of thousands of acres. Some of these are due to lightning strikes; some because of arson or irresponsiblity. Do your part to be responsible when in the hills, because one of those fires will end up burning up someone's home and killing lots of furry creatures.