Roosevelt Inn in the Black Hills
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Pigtail bridge on the Norbeck Scenic Byway

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 year-round.
     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.....



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