Winter Activities


Snowmobiling

The Black Hills has a large network of mapped and marked trails, groomed from December 15 through March 31. This designated network features parking, pit stops, and warming shelters. 

Where to Go:
Closest parking area and warming shelter to Custer is South Ditch Creek Lot.
For the closest snowmobiling trail, start at South Ditch Creek Lot in the Bear Mountain Area and head north.

Restricted areas include: 
Wildlife winter ranges/habitat 
Private property 
Cross-country skiing complexes 
Active logging areas 

Check out the Statewide Snowmobile Map to find information on trails and trail conditions.

Download a pdf version of the Statewide Snowmobile Map here.

Licensing Information:
In South Dakota, all snowmobiles must be properly licensed to operate on public or private lands, except those private lands owned by the snowmobile's operator. Resident snowmobile licenses must be permanently affixed to each side of a snowmobile, below the windshield and on the hood cowling.

According to state law, snowmobilers who operate in road rights-of-way and/or public snowmobile trails must show proof of financial responsibility (liability insurance).

License Fees:
Available for purchase at county treasurer's office:
Resident $10/year
Nonresidents $40 (temporary 5-day permit) - Non-resident snowmobiles validly licensed in another state can be legally operated in South Dakota.

Both resident and non-residents may purchase a special five-day temporary permit for unlicensed snowmobiles. The permit is available online and at many trailside vendors.

 

Fat Tire Biking

For those unfamiliar, fat bikes are mountain bikes that you can ride all year long on different types of trails. The differences that “fatties” offer are very interesting. The wide tires provide more traction in both dirt and snow, and allow a rider to climb uphill like no other bike can. The bigger tires—some as wide as 5 inches—can float through sand and snow, which is why they have become the favorite for winter riding. (https://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/blog/2018-01-11/skinny-fat-biking-black-hills)

Be sure to dress in breathable layers that are easy to take on and off. A proper base layer will keep you warm and dry. You want a base layer that will wick sweat away from your body so that your sweat does not sit on your skin and chill you.  Wear just enough clothes to be slightly chilled before you start pedaling. Your next layer should protect you from wind and rain. A light water/wind proof jacket will do the trick. Don’t forget warm socks for your feet and gloves for your hands. A winter hat under your bike helmet will keep you warm and safe.

When done properly, riders are using the trail when it is protected by a layer of snow. Trails can be damaged when riders choose to ride in muddy conditions.

Where to Go:
Needles Highway in Custer State Park
Mickelson Trail – best area would be to start at Trailhead #9 and head north

Licensing Information:
An entrance license is required for all Custer State Park Visitors.
License required for use of Mickelson Trail.

 

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the Black Hills and can offer solitude during the winter months. Snowshoes are made in different sizes and weight classes. This activity provides excellent exercise. Always tell someone where you are going and what time you plan to be back.

Make sure to dress in layers, a backpack with winter gear, a repair kit, drink a lot of fluids, and carry extra socks. Using poles can be a great help while snowshoeing, especially with balance. It is also a good idea to stretch beforehand, as snowshoeing requires you to use different muscles than normal hiking would. Snowshoeing is most enjoyable with cold temperatures and fluffy, powdered snow with a good base (if snowshoeing in warm temps, the snow will stick to your gear, creating an uncomfortable and heavy situation.)

Practice good snowshoeing etiquette; avoid groomed cross country ski trails and other areas where snowshoeing is not allowed.

Where to Go:

Mickelson Trail

Jewel Cave National Monument

Custer State Park (Park, Trails, and Needles Highway)

Black Hills National Forest Land

Licensing:

An entrance license is required for all Custer State Park Visitors

License required for use of Mickelson Trail

Where to Rent Snowshoes:

Jewel Cave National Monument – Free checkout available at the Visitor Center

Custer State Park – Free checkout available at the Main Visitor Center

Special Notes:

Jewel Cave National Monument – During the off-season, the monument is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Loaned snowshoes only to be used within Jewel Cave boundaries; visitors are encouraged to be back to the Visitor Center by 4 pm.

Custer State Park – Snowshoes can be rented free of charge late-December, January, February, and March. Visitors can use snowshoes anywhere in the park for up to 7 days. Custer State Park recommends at least 4 inches of snow on the ground for snowshoeing.

Winter Events:

https://www.nps.gov/jeca/planyourvisit/calendar.htm

https://gfp.sd.gov/events/?loc=park&pid=65

https://www.facebook.com/pg/custerchamber/events/?ref=page_internal




Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing provides excellent exercise during the winter months and can be enjoyed at certain locations throughout the Black Hills.

Make sure to dress in layers; overheating is possible if dressed too warm. Moisture-wicking clothing is encouraged. Also, take a pack with you (everything you would bring with you during a summer hike plus winter gear), keep skis in tune, and bring ski wax (if needed). Before cross country skiing, stretch beforehand in order to decrease muscle soreness and increase flexibility. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and also bring water with you. Always tell someone where you are going.

Where to Go:

Mickelson Trail

Needles Highway in Custer State Park

Beaver Creek Ski Trails (nearest groomed cross country ski trails from Custer) https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/blackhills/recreation/wintersports/recarea/?recid=62799&actid=91

Licensing:

An entrance license is required for all Custer State Park Visitors

License required for use of Mickelson Trail

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is a popular winter activity and the Southern Black Hills offer unique fishing opportunities found nowhere else in the state.  There are approximately eight hundred miles of streams and 38 reservoirs in the Black Hills Fish Management Area. 

Where to Go:

There are 5 great lakes located within Custer State Park that can be used for Ice Fishing. Sylvan, Stockade, Legion, Bismarck and Center Lakes are all great places to spend a beautiful winter day fishing!

What to Know:  Remember to check ice thickness before going out on a lake!!



A Few Important Things to Know:

  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.
  • Ice seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.
  • Ice formed over flowing water and currents is often dangerous. This is especially true near streams, bridges and culverts. Also, the ice outside river bends is usually weaker due to the undermining effects of the faster current.
  • The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. The extra weight also reduces how much weight the ice sheet can support. Also, ice near shore can be weaker than ice that is farther out.
  • Booming and cracking ice isn't necessarily dangerous. It only means that the ice is expanding and contracting as the temperature changes.
  • Schools of fish or flocks of waterfowl can also adversely affect the relative safety of ice. The movement of fish can bring warm water up from the bottom of the lake. In the past, this has opened holes in the ice causing snowmobiles and cars to break through.

Licensing Information:

In South Dakota, all individuals over the age of 16 are required to have a fishing license.

License Fees:

Available for purchase at Ace Hardware in Custer:

  • Resident $28/year or $8/1 day
  • Nonresidents $67/year or $16/1 day
  • Non-resident Family license- $67-  allows non-resident and immediate family (children under age 16 and spouse) to fish throughout the license period. The combined harvest of all family members covered by this license may not exceed one daily limit and one possession limit for each species.

Licenses may also be purchased online at https://apps.sd.gov/gf79license/login.aspx

Additionally, when fishing within Custer State Park a park license is required:

 

For more information visit: https://gfp.sd.gov/


Ice Skating

Ice skating is a great way to get and enjoy the outdoors during the winter months and there are plenty of lakes and streams throughout the area that offer great skating right here in the Southern Black Hills!

When going ice skating remember to dress in layers. Some suggestions include: long socks, that keep the rims of ice skates from chafing against your calves, long pants, gloves, long sleeved shirts, a sweater or sweat shirt, a winter coat and a hat that covers the ears. Young children should also wear for safety.

Ice Safety Reminders:

Always check for Ice thickness before going out!  Remember ice needs to be 4” thick to hold 1 person.

If you are on foot and feel the ice begin to crack beneath you, remember these steps:

  • DO NOT move suddenly. Lie on your stomach and spread your arms and legs. (like an airplane)
  • Stretch you arms over your head and bring them together.
  • Roll away from the crack. DO NOT bend your knees or elbows

If YOU fall through the ice:  Try not to panic.  DO NOT remove your winter clothing.

  • Heavy clothing will not drag you down. The heavy clothing will trap air and provide temporary warmth and flotation.  Turn towards the direction you came since the ice was strong enough to support you on your way out, it will probably support you again on your way back.
  • Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface.
  • Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks and swim your way back onto the solid ice. This can be done even without ice picks, but ice picks make it easier.  Slide onto the ice like a seal.
  • Lie flat on the ice and roll away from the hole. This will help you distribute your weight.
  • Get to a warm, dry sheltered area out of the wind.

 

For winter outdoor recreation tips: https://www.custersd.com//blog/Winter-Outdoor-Recreation-Safety-Tips

 


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