Your Guide to Winter Outdoor Activities in the Custer Area
Written by Dolsee Davenport
December 14, 2020

Most people that live near the snow dread the winter because it means “you’re stuck inside” all the time. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way! Winter is one of our favorite seasons, not just because the snow makes everything a winter wonderland, but because there is such a plethora of activities to do outdoors. With the proper winter clothing to keep warm and the right equipment to have fun, we promise you’ll not only enjoy your time exploring the outdoors in the winter, you’ll want to do it more!

Below are the 6 best outdoor winter activities in the southern Black Hills

This activity is fun for the whole family. And the best part is, it is inexpensive and easy to learn too. Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the quiet and stillness of the wilderness (it’s especially magical in winter), but also get a good workout too! Snowshoes make a hike in the snow much easier.

One tip we suggest when finding a trail is to plan on taking almost double the time since hiking in snow takes longer than hiking on dry land. That’s why we suggest picking an easy, short trail and going from there.

Where to Go:
Mickelson Trail
Jewel Cave National Monument
Custer State Park (Park, Trails, and Needles Highway)
Black Hills National Forest

Ice Skating
Ice skating indoors can be a lot of fun, but ice skating outdoors on a lake, canal/river, or pond is even more fun!! There’s nothing more magical than gliding around on a frozen body of water in the middle of winter! There are plenty of lakes and streams throughout the area that offer great skating right here in the Southern Black Hills!

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

Where to Go:
There are many lakes and streams throughout the Hills that offer great skating under the right conditions. One in particular that is a favorite in the Southern Black Hills is Legion Lake in Custer State Park.

Fat Biking
Fat biking is quickly becoming one of the most popular winter sports and for good reason: it’s an absolute BLAST!! Fat bikes are like mountain bikes but with wide, knobby tires to give you good traction on the snow.

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

The Black Hills has a large network of mapped and marked trails, groomed from December 15 through March 31. This designated network is ranked as one of the top 10 places to ride in the nation, featuring 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.

Ice Fishing
Fishing on ice might seem like a cold, boring winter activity but it’s just as enjoyable as summer fishing. Bring your family and friends, good food, warm drinks and you’ll have a great time even if you don’t catch anything.

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!

Cross-Country Skiing
The Black Hills is a paradise for fans of cross-country skiing!  Cross-country skiing is one of the quietest sports out there, meaning you’re more likely to encounter winter wildlife than you would be at a traditional downhill ski resort. Because you don’t need steep hills or lift access to cross-country ski, you can do it just about anywhere you have access to snow cover, and it’s an excellent full-body workout.  There are various places in the Black Hills to go cross-country skiing, including on the Mickelson Trail which runs right through the city of Custer.

Where to Go:
Mickelson Trail
Needles Highway in Custer State Park
Beaver Creek Ski Trails (nearest groomed cross country ski trails from Custer)

For more information on winter outdoor recreation:

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Custer, SD 57730



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