The legendary Black Hills of South Dakota ("Paha Sapa" in the Lakota language) cover an area 125 miles long and 69 miles wide in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. They encompass the highest peaks on the North American continent east of the Rocky Mountains, and are a separate mountain range covered with ponderosa pine forests and dotted with canyons, gulches, ruggedly beautiful rock formations, open mixed grass prairies, and fantastic caves. The Black Hills South Dakota encompass six national and state parks, hundreds of miles of hiking and horseback trails, and breathtaking scenic drives.
In addition to the parks, Black Hills attractions and things to do in the Black Hills include fabulous trout fishing and wilderness camping. There is even skiing in the northern part of the hills, and some of the resorts in the area have golfing available. The towns of Keystone, Hot Springs, Sturgis, and Rapid City are all popular for South Dakota vacations, and Black Hills attractions also include the iconic monuments of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park.
Native Americans have inhabited the Black Hills of South Dakota since around 7,000 B.C., and these hills were, and still are, sacred to them. The Arikara were the first inhabitants. This tribe moved north to North Dakota, and were followed by the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Crow. The Lakota came here from Minnesota, where they were called the Dakota, in the 1700s, and it is this proud band of the Sioux Nation that is most associated with the Black Hills South Dakota today. Their Pine Ridge Reservation is the second largest Native American Reservation in the United States, and the poorest region in the country. Visitors, particularly from foreign countries, come to this region looking for the traditional tipis and warrior braves clothed in buckskin. This romantic notion of the Great Plains Indians no longer exits. While you can drive through the reservation, what you will see is the extreme poverty. However, there are some Black Hills attractions that are Native American, including gaming casinos and the numerous rodeos, fairs, and pow wows that are important events in the region. Several resorts also bring in authentic Native American dancers for shows.
The history of the white man in the Black Hills of South Dakota began with the discovery of gold (and silver) in the 1870s. During the 1875-1878 gold rush, prospectors and settlers poured into the region that had been allocated to the Sioux "forever" by the American government. This led to the most well known of all the Indian Wars that continues legislatively even today. In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Black Hills South Dakota were taken illegally from the Sioux, and provided for a payment of more than 100 million dollars. This was refused, as it was the return of the sacred lands the Sioux were seeking. The funds have sat in an interest bearing account ever since, and have increased in value more than sevenfold. These lands are full of tumbling waterfalls, and pristine rivers and lakes. Here wild horses and bison herds roam free with elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, mountain goats, mountain lions, and prairie dogs. These are the natural resources that provided the plentiful hunting and fishing that once sustained the Native American tribes.
All these Black Hills attractions are available for you to enjoy. Things to do in the Black Hills include taking tours of the caves, including the incredible one located in Wind Cave National Park. You can also take a tour on the historic nineteenth-century steam train between Hill City and Keystone, ride the Mount Rushmore Aerial Tram and descend on an alpine slide, visit an authentic prairie sod house and homestead and a living history gold mine museum, or visit the dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Park in South Dakota in Rapid City.