Millions of people visit Custer State Park each year. Most come because of its close proximity to Mt. Rushmore, first-class fishing in its many lakes, and campgrounds in gorgeous mountain settings, but perhaps one of the best reasons to visit Custer State Park is for their abundant wildlife. Custer State Park is home to an 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that begins at the State Game Lodge within the park and runs to the Blue Bell Lodge. A trip along this loop anytime of day is sure to reward visitors with a view of varied species of wildlife.
What is the Wildlife Loop Road?
From large bison grazing along the rolling green hillsides to tiny chipmunks frolicking playfully in the grassland prairies, the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park is a plethora of animal life that allows visitors to experience a range of different habitats and animal species in a relatively small stretch of land. This 18-mile stretch glides past rolling grasslands, flat prairies and into steep jagged mountain sides.
What Animals Will You See?
The most commonly seen animals on the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park include bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs, burros and rabbits. Other animals you might see include elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, chipmunks, a variety of birds, and more.
When to Drive the Wildlife Loop Road?
It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to drive the loop with minimal stops, so plan accordingly. A drive at dusk is particularly beautiful, but you don’t want to be caught driving the steep and curving mountains in the dark, so arrive well before sunset for the best viewing and safest driving conditions. Early morning is another great time to visit, when the animals are just getting up and going for the day. Try to avoid mid-day when the sun is at its hottest if you have a choice. Be careful driving back to your campground or lodging within the park after leaving the loop, there are some bison that like to hang out in on the winding curves within the park’s roads.
While driving the Wildlife Loop Road should be perfectly safe, there are some things you need to keep in mind. Do not exit your vehicle to interact with the wildlife. Feeding the wildlife is prohibited, although many rangers will tell you that feeding the burros healthy snacks is okay. Do not drive over the posted speed limit, as animals are often in the roadway. Following these tips will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip along the loop.
If you love wildlife viewing, then few places provide a better chance to see a great number of animals in a short span of time, than the Wildlife Loop Road at Custer State Park. This lively loop is alive with a mix of species living in the varied landscapes that this bountiful South Dakota park provides.
Are you an avid wildlife fan? Have you visited South Dakota?