Black Hills National Forest
Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota USA

Black Hills National Forest is located in southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, in the United States. This forest is spread over an area of over 1.25 million acres (5,066 km²) and is managed by the Forest Service of South Dakota.

Black Hills National Forest Headquarters

The headquarters of this forest is located in Custer, South Dakota. Its local ranger district offices are in Custer, Rapid City, and Spearfish in South Dakota, and in Sundance, Wyoming.

History of Black Hills National Forest

There is an interesting history behind the name of Black Hills National Forest. The name “Black Hills” comes from the Lakota word Paha Sapa, which means “hills that are black.”

These hills are named the Black Hills because when you see from a distance, these pine-covered hills, rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie, appear to be black. These Hills are diverse in cultural heritage.

Geography of Black Hills National Forest

This forest is located in parts of seven counties in South Dakota and Wyoming. These counties are Pennington, Custer, Lawrence, Crook, Fall River, Meade, and Weston counties. The Forest is located immediately west and south of Rapid City and can be accessed from Interstate 90. The forest headquarters is located in Custer, South Dakota.

Black Hills National Forest Wildfire in 1893

This national forest is a survivor of wildfires in 1893. Then U.S. President Grover Cleveland recreated the Black Hills Forest Reserve on February 22, 1897.

Afterward, U.S. President William McKinley issued a presidential proclamation on September 19, 1898, appending the Black Hills Forest Reserve geographic boundaries while acknowledging the forest preservation decrees established by the Timber Culture Act and Forest Reserve Act of 1891.

Black Hills National Forest Earliest Habitat

The earliest known use of this forest is something about 10,000 years ago. Later, Native Americans came to the Black Hills to seek visions and to purify themselves. Paha Sapa was considered a sanctuary and was a peaceful meeting ground for tribes at war.

The Black Hills are explored and exploited by fur traders and trappers in the 1840s. In 1874, General Custer led an Army exploration into the area and discovered gold. When word got out of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, settlers soon followed.

Hours of operation

Black Hills National Forest is open year-round, 24 hours per day.

Entry Fees

  • No entry fees for visiting Black Hills National Forest, but some day-use recreation sites charge a $3 to $5 per vehicle fee from about Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • Black Hills National Forest also offers $20 to $30 annual vehicle pass for frequent visitors. You can purchase the passes at most Black Hills National Forest offices, some campgrounds and the Forest Visitor Center at Pactola.
  • Fees are spent to maintain and operate the facilities.


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