The Custer State Park is a great place for a horseback riding adventure. The park has more than 200 miles of trails, and the scenery is spectacular. You’ll see breathtaking views of the Black Hills, rolling hills covered in wildflowers, and picturesque creeks as you ride your horse through this beautiful landscape. There are five designated equestrian campgrounds that provide overnight camping with access to water and electricity for those who want to stay overnight on their journey through the state park. This article will give you all of the information that you need to have an enjoyable horseback riding in Custer state park!
The Custer State Park has five popular horse riding trails:
- Big Tree
- The Wildlife Loop Trail
- Racetrack Butte Loop Trail
- Buffalo Corrals
- Parker Canyon
The Naming of Custer State Park
Custer State Park is named after General George Armstrong Custer. Armstrong has a history with this area that dates back to 1874 when gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The trail takes you through beautiful South Dakota landscapes and also allows motorists to see bison along the way. You can even stop at a local candy shop along the way to get a snack.
In addition, the trail allows you to stretch your legs and take in some of the nature around you. Not only is it great for sightseeing but it’s an exhilarating activity that tests your endurance of being on horseback for an extended period of time.
Horseback riding in Custer State Park
A common misconception about horseback riding is that it’s harder than just sitting on a horse. However, the opposite is true because you’re using your core to balance yourself and direct the animal where you want it to go unlike just sitting in one place like many people think. Many of us only see horses at fairs or maybe during holidays so this experience may be new to many.
Custer State Park is a popular destination for horseback riding, so the park is careful to protect its horses and riders. All trails in Custer State Park are marked with marker posts and most contain mile markers along the way.
Each horse trail at Custer State Park has unique features that attract people. There are some features that will attract you to one horse trail in this park and not the other. Let’s now look at each horse trail in Custer State Park with its unique attractive features.
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1. The Big Tree Trail
This is one of five equestrian trails within Custer State Park that lead you on a ride through pine trees. This trail is just over one mile long, and it features many tall pines that are hundreds of years old. The historic marker posts along the way give more history about these ancient pines.
This is a great horseback riding trail for all levels of riders because there really isn’t any uphill or downhill on this trail.
The beauty about the Big Tree Trail is that it is open year-round, and it has a special horse trailer parking area at the trailhead. Therefore, this is an ideal trail for those that aren’t able to ride their horses during the winter months because of storage or climate reasons.
2. The Wildlife Loop Trail
The Wildlife Loop Trail provides you with great views of wildlife such as elk, deer, and buffalo. The trail is seven miles long and runs through the northern section of Custer State Park.
The wildlife in this area has been said to be some of the most diverse and abundant throughout North America. Different types of animals thrive here such as elk, bison, deer and antelope.
The Wildlife Loop Trail is a must ride for those that love to see wildlife in their natural habitat or anyone who loves an adventure on horseback! When you decide to ride a horse along this trail, you get an opportunity to bond with nature. The sweet breeze of the prairie and beautiful scenery will relax you. Additionally, you can see animals in their natural habitat and how they interact with each other. It is a wonderful experience being at the Wildlife Loop Trail in Custer State Park.
3. Racetrack Butte Loop Trail
Another thrilling adventure at Custer State Park is the Racetrack Butte Loop Trail. This trail offers a great view of the wildlife in their natural habitat and also features an awesome rock formation called “The Great Slabs” which are towering rocks that make you feel small when standing next to them. Moreover, there is another rock formation called “The Elephant’s Feet.” These are huge rocks that resemble elephant feet and it is quite interesting to see these large boulders up close.
The Racetrack Butte Loop Trail offers more than just seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. You can also enjoy the thrill of horseback riding in Custer State Park by going on a guided trail ride at Needles Outpost Lodge and Resort.
If you have kids, they will love to see all kinds of wildlife from an exciting perspective while being able to learn about it too! Kids that are six years old or older will be able to go on this hour-long trail ride. They can walk, trot or gallop depending on the group’s ability level. You will be given a helmet and your horse is provided for you as well! It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced rider or not since they have horses of all sizes.
4. Buffalo Corrals
This is another fun place for horseback riding in Custer State Park. Buffalo Corrals are located at the Needles Outpost Lodge and Resort. You will have the opportunity to see bison up close as they stand near your truck or horse with a guide! This is an amazing experience since you can take photos, touch them or even feed them if you want to. If you are brave enough, you can even ride one of these huge animals. Normally, the tour lasts about one hour.
Some of the fun activities at this place include hayrides, wagon rides and much more. You can also stay in a cabin or at the resort when you are done with horseback riding.
The trail is great for families, friends and even couples since it includes many different activities that everyone will enjoy! Visitors often consider this as one of their favourite places to visit when they go to Custer State Park.
5. Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon is another great horseback riding trail in Custer State Park. The trail is filled with stunning views and scenery, including a waterfall.
This trail is located in the northern part of Custer State Park and therefore it can be reached by taking Route 16A from Rapid City.
There are many different horseback riding tours available at Parker Canyon such as beginner to advanced trails, half-day or full-day ones and even moonlight rides.
Another adventurous feature is Parker Canyon Lake. The lake offers many different kinds of activities for families and friends to enjoy together. Some of the activities include hiking, swimming, fishing, boating or picnicking by the water. Taking part in these activities will brighten your life as you get to enjoy new things. The lake gives you an opportunity to interact with a full ecosystem.
There are several trails that you can take around this beautiful area including the Oak Creek trail. The trail is great for hiking or horseback riding and it gives you a chance to experience the land in its natural state.
Riding the Iron Mountain Road from Sylvan Lake
In 1876 there was a gold rush taking place in Custer State Park’s southern region. At the time, transportation was difficult and most people were getting around on horses. That is why they built a road that would take them from Sylvan Lake to Iron Mountain which took about five hours.
Today you can ride your horse up this historic route with the help of an experienced guide for $50. The price is inclusive of the ride, a western saddle and water.
What to bring for horseback riding in Custer State Park
You should wear clothes that can get dirty. Remember, you will be riding through nature and it is important to dress appropriately.
Here are some other things you need to bring:
- Sturdy shoes or boots (no sandals)
- A jacket in case of cold weather
- Sunglasses with UV protection
The trail is very safe since it has been built by man, but you need to stay alert in case there are other horses on the path.
Trail Options at Custer State Park
One-hour trail ride
You will ride through the prairie and enjoy an hour of pure relaxation. If you are looking for something else, this trail is perfect during summer because it has lots of shade from trees.
1-hour trail option is available for adults and children 5 years and older at $50. However, if you want a private ride, you will be charged $80
Two-hour trail ride
This long route takes you to a beautiful lake where there are wild animals including deer so bring your camera! The guides will take great pictures of you and your family on this ride.
This two-hour trail is available for children over the age of seven and adults at $90 per person. For a private tour, it will cost $120.
Private Trail Ride (for families only)
If you want something special with just your friends or immediate family, this ride is for you. The guides will take great pictures of your group on the tour and can even offer a picnic lunch with champagne! The private tour lasts two hours at $160 per person or just $200 for a family of up to four people.
Horseback riding in Custer State Park is something you and your family will never forget. If the children want to take a picture with their horse, there is no problem as long as they do not bother others on the tour. A private ride can be arranged if you would like an even more intimate experience where you are in control of everything that happens during the trip.
You can decide the horse riding trail you want based on your expectations. Also, the number of people you are with will determine how much attention is on your group. A guide leads all tours but they do not have to be so strict and can allow adults more freedom than children who tend to enjoy themselves less without supervision.