One of the pigtail bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway as seen in late
summer. Anytime of the year is a good time to come to the Black Hills,
but roads such as this may be closed in winter.
Best Time to Come
"When is the best time
to come to the Black Hills?" This is perhaps the most asked and least
answered question we get. The answer, of course, is "it depends ...."
Roughly 90 percent of all visitors come during
the 100 days or so between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This is when the
weather is warmest, everything is open and, perhaps most importantly,
when the children are out of school.
Many senior travelers, however, choose to come
in the early fall months of September and
October. Temperatures are still generally pleasant, most attractions
remain open, and room prices are lower.
Fewer visitors come in November, December,
January and February, unless they are interested in winter sports. The
Northern Hills' ski season runs from roughly Thanksgiving to mid-March.
Snowmobiling is best during the months of December through March.
Cross-country skiing and snowboarding are also popular. Black Hills
lakes usually safely freeze over in December, marking the start of the
ice fishing season which ends when the ice houses begin to sink in
early March.Thanks to the swift flows of spring-fed streams that never
do freeze over, fly fishing goes on throughout the winter.
Hunters and cyclists seem to come in the fall.
Various South Dakota hunting seasons, particulary deer, pheasant and
elk are in October, November and December. Annual seasons vary and are
set in late summer by the Department of Game, Fish and Wildlife.
If your interests run more toward wildlife
photography, the spring may be the best time to come. Buffalo calves
are born in spring and wildlife in general tends to be more visible in
spring when the temperatures are cooler and snow melts bring them
closer to the roads.
Most of the "big" attractions in the Black
Hills operate all year. These include Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse
Memorial, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave
National Monument, The Badlands National Park and Devil's Tower
National Monument. In mid-winter, however, the hours of operation may
be shortened. Other major attrations are also open year-round and our
Black Hills Travel Guide indicates which are seasonal and which are
Some people prefer traveling to the Black
Hills during the peak season. Virtually everything is open but dealing
with crowds can be trying. You may have to wait over an hour to get
into a popular restaurant. But there are others who actually like being
in a crowd. That's a mystery to us.
Weather is the biggest factor in traveling
during the winter. In South Dakota, even the interstate highways, as
well as all other roads, can be temporarily shut down due to winter
storms. Some roads in the Black Hills, notably Needles Highway and Iron
Mountain Road, are not maintained during the winter months and are
effectively closed until the spring thaw. Alternately, some winter days
in the Hills, can seem positively balmy as temperature spikes into the
60s are common.
So what's best? Like we said, that depends.....