This article is featured in the Spring 2022 issue of LAND magazine. Click here to find out more.
What do you think when you hear “South Dakota”?
In the early 1970s South Dakota had a marketing campaign called “South Dakota of all Places”. That slogan would be just as apt today as it seems South Dakota is still an obscure place in most people’s minds. Mostly we think of the Great Plains when you mention South Dakota, a lot of open space, flat land, and prairie. Indeed, the majority of South Dakota is rolling prairies, but there is a well-kept secret, a small unpopulated area in western South Dakota—and a portion of eastern Wyoming—called the Black Hills that covers an area 110 miles long and 70 miles wide with a population of less than 240,000 and people are starting to notice.
The name Black Hills comes from the Native American term Pahá Sápa, which is the word the Lakota used to describe the black-green appearance of the hills when viewed from the plains. The Black Hills is covered in majestic ponderosa pine, quaking aspen and beautiful granite and limestone outcroppings. Black Elk Peak—Named after the famous Native American Lakota Warrior Black Elk—is the highest point in South Dakota with an elevation of 7,242 feet above sea level and is the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps. The reason for settlers coming to the hills was the gold rush of the late 1800’s. Gold was first discovered by George Armstrong Custer’s Black Hills Expedition of 1874. For many of the settlers it was Destination: Black Hills and strike it rich. . .or go bust! Gold has been consistently mined in the hills now for almost 150 years and is known world-wide for its Black Hills Gold jewelry. Like gold, the Black Hills are truly a treasure of mountains, trees, and rocks in the middle of the prairie.
South Dakota has a reputation of harsh, cold winters but the Black Hills area is different. The southern section of the Black Hills is known as the “Banana Belt,” because on many winter days there is a temperature inversion where the Hills can be sunnier and warmer compared to the lower elevations surrounding the hills. This region has less snow than Denver, warmer winters than Minneapolis, and more sunshine days than Miami. Even though winter can be cool and snowy, summers are warm, dry and sunny, with daytime temperatures reaching into the 70s and 80s. Interesting fact: up until 1992 South Dakota’s state slogan was the “Sunshine State”.
The Black Hills is Home to internationally famous landmarks such as Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Park (third longest cave in the world), Wind Cave National Park (seventh longest cave in the world), and the mysterious and unique Devil’s Tower National Monument located in the Black Hills of Wyoming. And of course, the hills are rich in Native American culture, old-west mining towns such as the infamous Deadwood, and museums of all kinds.
With over 1.2 million acres of National Forest public land to enjoy there is something for everyone here. There are miles and miles of Forest Service roads for the ultimate in off-road recreation including ATV riding, mountain biking and hunting. The old mining railroads are gone, so now you can hike, bike ride or horseback ride the 108-mile-long rails-to-trails known as the Mickelson Trail, named after the late governor George Mickelson. The northern hills offer winter sports such as skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and there is always great ice fishing in the many lakes throughout the hills.
There is an amazing hiking trail network throughout the hills for wonderful day hikes, amazing views, and secluded backpack camping trips. You can visit old fire towers, swim, and fish in the many lakes, take a hot air balloon tour, explore caves, and the Black Hills is home to world-class rock climbing. See a multitude of animal life ranging from American Bison (Buffalo), deer, elk, prairie dogs and coyotes (state animal), as well as unique flora and fauna to enjoy. There are fun and unique little towns to visit and so many good places to eat! The Black Hills is also home to the famous annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, which can bring in hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts each year that come to ride through the winding switchback roads and tunnels of the beautiful Needles Highway.
Land of the Free
In 2020 the Black Hills—and South Dakota more broadly—took a very common-sense approach when the pandemic hit, didn’t lock-down and has thrived as a result with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and one of the strongest economies. South Dakota and Wyoming also have no state income tax; truly the land of the free. This combination has gotten the attention of a lot of people in our country and has resulted in a lot of those folks relocating here to call the Black Hills their home. Spurred by the desire for a better quality of life individuals, families, and businesses have moved here lock, stock, and barrel and have said goodbye to the craziness of the cities. The Black Hills are number two in the USA for people relocating according to 2021 National Movers Study.
When you come to visit the Black Hills, you can pick quiet remote places to refuel your senses, or you can go to adventure parks for amusement and the time of your life—or any combination of everything above for your own one-of-a-kind Black Hills Experience. One thing is for sure, if you come to visit the Black Hills you may well want to call it your new home, your destination, and you’ll be saying: South Dakota of all Places!
If you have interest in learning more about the Black Hills to see if they might be the right fit for you and your family or business, please feel free to reach out to us at DestinationBlackHills.com.
Team Faith Lewis is an organization of excellence and professionalism with great expertise in these beautiful Black Hills and surrounding areas. Based out of Custer City, South Dakota, with an office in Newcastle, Wyoming, Faith’s Team has helped hundreds of families purchase or sell over $86.5 million in real estate in 2021. Remember you gotta have faith! Each Office Is Independently Owned and Operated.