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Educational Nature Programs

Custer State Park hosts an array of interpretive and educational activities during the summer season. Each program is geared for families with young children and will expose participants to the various natural and cultural features of the Black Hills.

  • Fee: Free for the general public
  • Park Permit: Required

January

Program Details

Date: Wednesday, January 1
Locations / Times:
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center -
10 a.m.
Info: 605.255.4464

Creekside Stroll - First Day Hike

Experience the solitude of winter in Custer State Park as you learn about the area flora, fauna and wildlife on this two-mile trail that parallels Grace Coolidge Creek. Meet at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center for this 2-hour adventure. Be sure to dress for the weather Ages 5+.


Program Details

Date: Saturday, January 11
Locations / Times:
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center -
9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Info: 605.255.4464

Game Lodge Snowshoe HIke

This guided snowshoe hike takes participants on a trail overlooking Game Lodge Campground. The hike is two miles long and is geared toward the basics of snowshoeing. It is considered an easy hike for beginners. Snowshoes are provided.

NOTE: Reservations are required due to the limited amount of snowshoes and must be made by calling 605.255.4464.

February

Program Details

Date: Saturday, February 1
Locations / Times:
Stockade Lake Beach Area -
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Info: 605.255.4464

Ice Fishing Program

Geared for beginners, the basics of ice fishing, ice safety and fish identification will be discussed. Participants will have the opportunity to explore some of the park's most beautiful winter scenery while trying their luck at the winter sport of ice fishing. Fishing poles, bait and tackle will be provided. Anyone interested in the program can participate for the full length of the program or for just a short time.

NOTE: Pre-registration is required, call 605-255-4464


Valentine's Lover's Leap Snowshoe Hike

This guided snowshoe hike takes participants through a dense pine forest, meandering near Grace Coolidge Creek. The hike is three miles long and is geared toward the basics of snowshoeing. It is considered moderate to strenuous. Snowshoes are provided.

NOTE: Reservations are required due to the limited number of snowshoes and must be made by calling 605.255.4464.

Program Details

Date: Saturday, February 15
Locations / Times:
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center -
9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Info: 605.255.4464

March

Program Details

Date: Saturday, March 1
Locations / Times:
Sylvan Lake General Store Parking Lot
1 p.m.
Info: 605.255.4464

Sylvan Lake Snowshoe Hike

Take an easy one mile guided hike around Sylvan Lake using snowshoes, followed by a one mile moderate hike up Trail #9 to a vista overlooking the Black Hills and Harney Peak. Total hike is three miles. Snowshoes are provided.

NOTE: Reservations are required due to the limited number of snowshoes and must be made by calling 605.255.4464.

April

Program Details

Date: Saturday, April 12
Locations / Times:
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center -
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Earth Day Bluebird Box Workshop

Participants will build a bluebird house from scrap wood in honor of Earth Day, teaching recycling and appreciation for birds. There are two session times, and a limit of 20 participants per session. Participants must bring a hammer. All participants will take their completed birdhouse home.

NOTE: Reservations are required and must be made by calling 605.255.4464.

May

Program Details

Date: May 17 - September 30
Location:
Check in at Peter Norbeck Visitor Center
Info: 605.255.4464

Custer State Park Seasonal Volksmarch Trail Opens

Volksmarches evolved from public races in southern Germany that still take place today. Custer State Park continues this European tradition each year. Participants walk 6.2 miles through various park habitats. The trail begins at the Historic Badger Hole and Badger Clark Trail and connects to the Centennial Trail. It loops around Legion Lake and ends back at the Badger Hole.


Custer State Park Open House and Free Fishing Weekend

Enjoy a free weekend at Custer State Park, beginning at 8 a.m. Friday and ending 11 p.m. Sunday. Entrance fees are not charged at any S.D. state park or recreation area during this weekend. Camping fees are still required.

To celebrate the beginning of the summer season, visitors can enjoy nature hikes, hayrack rides, cowboy cookouts, pancake feeds and other special events. This is also the weekend for the park's infamous buffalo chip throwing contest. Fishing licenses are not required on S.D. waters during this special weekend. The park hosts a free fishing derby, awarding prizes for anglers in each age group.

Program Details

Date: May 16-18
Location: Custer State Park
Info: 605.255.4464

June

National Trails Day

Program Details

Date: Saturday, June 7
Locations / Times:
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center - 9 a.m.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Exploring the Waves of Grass
Prairie Trail

Most visitors take the mixed grass prairie for granted. However, Custer State Park offers over 18,000 acres of grassland habitat,
which houses a diversity of life. From wildflowers to grasses, from wildlife to unseen beauty, this guided hike exposes participants to the significance of the Great Plains.


Program Details

Date: Saturday, June 7
Locations / Times:
Sylvan Lake General Store Parking Lot
1 p.m.
Difficulty: Strenuous

Reach the Peak
LIttle Devil's Tower Trail

This guided hike takes participants to one of the highest points in the Black Hills. Hiking through a spruce-pine forest, then scrambling through a rocky terrain, participants venture to the summit of a geological landscape. Come and learn about the geology of the Black Hills, while challenging yourself to complete one of the most strenuous trails in Custer State Park.

NOTE: This hike is considered strenuous and is not recommended for people with health conditions or physical limitations.


Program Details

Date: Saturday, June 7
Locations / Times:
Badger Hole - 4 p.m.
Difficulty: Easy

Legacy of a Poet Laureate
Badger Clark Trail

Join a naturalist for a one-mile hike along the Badger Clark Trail and learn of Badger's legacy in South Dakota and Custer State Park. Witness new interpretive panels along the trail that take visitors back to a place and time of a man who lived and shared a simple life. Be immersed in nature, including wildflowers, an occasional buffalo or elk, and the ponderosa pine forest.


Program Details

Date: Wednesday, June 25
Locations / Times:
Game Lodge Campground
9:30 a.m. - noon
Info: 605.255.4828

Nature Day Camp

Kids' Fishing Day

Participants (Ages 7-12) will learn how to tie a fishing knot, take part in a casting contest, boat and water safety, learn some tricks for cleaning the catch, and make fish prints to take home. Wear clothes that can get wet, bring a water bottle, sunscreen and a snack.

NOTE: Reservations are required and must be made by calling
605.255.4828.

July

Nature Day Camp - Track Detectives

When many animals are nocturnal and most people are diurnal (awake during the day), it can be a mystery figuring out where an animal was going and what it was doing when only foot prints are left behind. Come learn about the many animals of the area, how to identify common animal tracks, and make an animal track to take home. Wear water shoes; bring a water bottle, sunscreen and a snack.

NOTE: Reservations are required and must be made by calling 605.255.4828.

Program Details

Date:
Wednesday, July 23
Locations / Times:
Game Lodge Campground
9:30 a.m. - noon
Info: 605.255.4828

August

Nature Day Camp - Nature Explorers

Does catching insects, discovering tracks, smelling flowers, identifying animal droppings, looking at birds through binoculars, and just being outside sound fun to you? If so, come to Custer State Park and spend the morning being a naturalist and exploring nature! Wear water shoes; bring a water bottle, sunscreen and a snack.

NOTE: Reservations are required and must be made by calling 605.255.4828.

Program Details

Date: Wednesday, August 13
Locations / Times:
Game Lodge Campground
9:30 a.m. - noon
Info: 605.255.4828


Program Details

Date: Saturday, August 16
Locations / Times:
Game Lodge Campground Tatanka Theatre
6 p.m.
Info: 605.255.4464

South Dakota Bat Festival

In partnership with the South Dakota Bat Working Group, Custer State Park is hosting its 9th Annual Bat Festival. Several biologists will be on hand with activities and presentations to help visitors understand (and appreciate) the myths and facts associated with bats. For added excitement, late night participants will also be involved in a mist netting operation in order to capture live bats.

October

Halloween NIght Hike

To experience the outdoors at night is a treat for many visitors. Life continues to exist even after the sun goes down. This event allows participants to hike a paved path along a "creepy" route, consisting costumed characters. The characters humor their audiences with short skits about the natural history various critters living in the Black Hills. Hikes take place every 15 minutes from 5:30 - 8:30 p. m.

NOTE: Reservations are required for all participants and can be made by calling 605.255.4464 starting October 1, 2014.

Program Details

Date: Friday, Oct. 24 & Saturday, Oct. 25
Locations / Times:
Peter Norbeck Visitor Center - 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Reservations: Required, call 605.255.4464 after October 1.