South Dakota/Wyoming Road Trip: Day 2

buffalo,wildlife,black hills,wildlife loop road,custer state park

Buffalo grazing along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park

Today was unseasonably hot; way too hot to do our planned hike in Custer State Park, so instead we drove around the Wildlife Loop Road, checking out the abundant wild creatures that inhabit this area. Large herds of Buffalo, along with white tail deer, antelope, wild turkeys, and even a herd of playful wild burros were some of the interesting animals we saw on the drive. From the loop road, we drove the Needles Highway, which passes by the Cathedral Spires, an area with towering rock pinnacles. The winding, and often narrow, road passes through very beautiful volcanic rock formations in the area and involves navigating three slightly challenging, single-lane tunnels.

black hills,south dakota,tunnel,Needles Highway

Car driving through tunnel on Needles Highway

From the Needles Highway, we made the short drive back to Mt. Rushmore for a daytime view of the mountain and a walk on the Presidential Trail. The temperature was almost at 90 degrees, but the trail is only one mile and is fairly shaded, so we thought we’d give it a try. The Presidential Trail takes you to just below the carvings, giving you perspectives that you can’t get from the viewing area alone. Along the way we passed by a herd of mountain goats that seemed uninterested in the steady stream of hikers going by. When we returned to the visitor’s center after our hike in the blistering heat, we went straight to the café; here we treated ourselves to a bowl of what may be the biggest and best ice cream found in any national park.

The temperature seemed to cool a bit by late afternoon, so we thought we’d try an easy hike near Hill City. The trail, called the Flume Trail, follows what was originally a canal that carried water along the hillside to a now-abandoned gold mine. The trail is a pleasant, 11-mile walk through pine-covered hillsides above Sheridan Reservoir. What makes this trail unique is how it passes through two of the remaining flume tunnels. If you want a nice walk without the crowds, this is the place to be; during our two-hour walk we didn’t see another person.


About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company ( After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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