By Sturgis Rider News Blog
The unrivaled roads, breathtaking beauty and legendary locales found in the Black Hills of South Dakota make the area a dream destination for motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide. If you’re planning a trip to the hills, it can be easy to fill up your schedule just by hitting up a few of the well-known destinations. Although these big players are certainly worth adding to your agenda, you’ll find there are scores of extraordinary Black Hills attractions a bit off the beaten path. Here are seven hidden gems the Sturgis Rider® Friendly Establishment Program™ strongly recommends adding to your Black Hills vacation itinerary.
1. The Mammoth Site – Hot Springs, SD
Long before motorcycles became the area’s most abundant beasts, the Black Hills were home to a group of remarkable creatures you won’t see unless you visit the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.
This National Natural Landmark is a Rider Friendly Establishment that allows you to travel back to the late Ice Age and walk the edges of a sinkhole where Columbian and wooly mammoths, camels, wolves and giant short-faced bears became trapped 26,000 years ago. Your 30-minute guided indoor tour will take you though an active paleontological dig site that has unearthed over 61 mammoths to date as well as the Ice Age exhibit hall featuring full-sized replicas of mammoths, a giant short-faced bear and a walk-in mammoth bone-hut. After your guided tour, you’ll be invited to stroll the sidewalks of the dig area and exhibit hall at your own pace. So even though you can get in an out in 30 minutes, you may want to set aside one to two hours for your visit.
2. Rush Mountain Adventure Park – Keystone, SD
Exhilarating twists and turns through stunning scenery are what makes the Black Hills so fantastic for riders; these characteristics are also what makes Rush Mountain Adventure Park’s new Mountain Coaster a must-do for thrill seekers of all kinds. Fly solo or hold your honey tight as you zoom over 3,400 feet of rails that descend Rush Mountain through a series of whoops and pigtail bridges that give Needles Highway a run for its money.
Carts can get up to 31 mph, a speed at which you may feel you could be tossed off into the woods at any moment. But rest assured, each cart is equipped with state-of-the-art safety features and hand breaks that allow you to control your own speed. Your ride will last 6-8 minutes depending how fast you go, but whether slow or fast, you’ll be headed over 50-foot towers and around both a 360 and 540-degree turn.
After you’ve viewed Rush Mountain from the air, check out the scene underground by taking a tour through Rushmore Cave. The cave’s beautiful stalactite-filled caverns remain a constant 58°F, which makes it a great place to escape the heat on a hot summer day. The cave’s 98 percent humidity does make things a bit damp, so we recommend a light jacket and sturdy pair of rubber-soled walking shoes. If you’re looking to make a day of your trip to Rush Mountain, you can also soar over the treetops on their Soaring Eagle Zipline and practice your shooting skills at the Gunslinger 7-D Interactive Ride.
3. Fort Hays Old West Town – Rapid City, SD
If you’re looking for a true taste of the old west, it doesn’t get much more authentic than Fort Hays Old West Town. This attraction will take you back in time to experience first hand many of the trades that made towns in the old west thrive. You’ll find craftsmen making handmade necessities including tools, ropes, bricks and plates, and many will teach you their craft. Use a 100-year-old lathe to make your own tin plate in the tin shop, mix South Dakota red dirt and sand together to make a customized brick in the brick factory or even watch your own hunting knife take shape at the blacksmith shop.
Fort Hays is also home to the “Dances With Wolves” film set, which means you can see the original buildings used in the movie and stand in the very spot where John D. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) received his new posting orders for Fort Hays.
Fort Hays sits right off HWY 16, just five miles south of Rapid City, which makes it a convenient stop if you’re on your way to Mt. Rushmore or Iron Mountain Road. With free admission and endless photo opportunities, there’s no reason for you to ride past without stopping.
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