Tucked away in the Black Hills and home to a population of less than a thousand, it’s easy to assume Hill City is just another sleepy little town — but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The downtown core pulses with activity thanks to wineries, art galleries and Old West attractions. A short drive from town quickly reveals the most famous site in all of South Dakota: Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Heart of the Hills
Hill City is often referred to as the “Heart of the Black Hills” because of its central location to the state’s most popular attractions. Just a 15-minute drive from downtown brings you to the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Completed in 1941, the memorial’s story is told at the nearby Lincoln Borglum Museum Photo Gallery, named after the sculptor who designed the iconic faces.
Rush to Rushmore
At Mount Rushmore, prepare to be blown away by the granite-carved faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Get a close-up view of the colossal sculptures by walking along the Presidential Trail, offering awe-inspiring views of the 60-foot famous faces carved 500 feet up a stone mountain, and visit the Grand View Terrace to capture panoramic photos.
A Lakota Leader
The Crazy Horse Memorial nearby is still in the process of being completed. When it’s finished, it will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high, making it the largest mountain carving in the world. The memorial pays tribute to the legendary 19th-century Lakota hero and strove to preserve the living heritage of his people. The Indian Museum of North America is also situated here, so stop by to view an collection of indigenous art and artifacts.
One of the easiest ways to access untouched backcountry is by canoeing or kayaking. Paddle around Custer State Park’s Sylvan Lake to admire its dramatic shoreline or enjoy a relaxing float on Horsethief Lake in the Black Hills National Forest. Motorized and nonmotorized boats are allowed on most lakes in both places too. If fishing is on your agenda, flick your rod in Deerfield Lake for a chance to reel in trout or splake, a hybrid species of char-brook trout. The Stockade, Legion and Center lakes within Custer State Park are hot spots for crappie and trout too.
Go Wild in Custer State Park
Hill City’s backyard is teeming with an incredible array of wildlife. Go to nearby Custer State Park and drive through the 71,000-acre space to come face-to-face with 1,300 free-roaming bison. Keep an eye out for antelope, elk and mountain goats too. Afterward, park the vehicle and head for the trails. Follow the Cathedral Spires Trail to see fascinating rock formations or check out the waterfalls on the Sunday Gulch Trail. Epic views of the Cathedral Spires, Black Elk Peak and the Black Hills are also waiting for you along the Little Devils Tower route.
Ride the Rails
Step aboard the 1880 Train and enjoy a narrated trip between Hill City and Keystone on a century-old steam engine. Explore the railroad’s history and watch a model train in action at the South Dakota State Railroad Museum.
For More Information
Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce
South Dakota Department of Tourism