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When it comes to experiencing the great outdoors of North America, there's really no place better than the American Midwest. With rolling hills, flat plains, and mountain peaks sprinkled everywhere throughout this scenic region, you can expect to experience a little bit of everything. If you're planning to rent an RV in Meade County for your adventures in South Dakota, Bear Butte State Park is certainly worth a visit.
Bear Butte State Park is in the corner of South Dakota, near the borders of both Montana and Wyoming, and only about 33 miles northwest from Rapid City, one of the largest cities in the state. From the massive 4,426-foot summit of Bear Mountain, you can see four different states. The mountain itself holds a considerable amount of historical value.
Long ago, this mountain was considered a sacred place to the Native Americans and was the place where the creator would communicate to people through visions and prayer alike. Even today, many people come to this place both for its value historically, but also spiritually. Throughout the park, there are prayer cloths and tobacco ties hanging from the trees from people who have come to the mountain to worship. Respect this sacred space while camping at Bear Butte State Park by leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but photos.
While the state park might be relatively small, it has quite a bit to offer. There are two main trails: the Summit Trail and the Lake Trail. The aptly named Summit Trail will take you to the summit of the mountain, which is roughly a two-mile trek on a narrow dirt path.
As its name suggests, the Lake Trail takes you around Bear Butte Lake, offering a gorgeous view from within the forested mountain at the clear lake below. This trail is a little bit longer, coming in at two and a half miles, but it's also considerably easier to manage. If you want to get a better view of the lake, then this trail is going to be the best one for you.
Aside from the trails, Bear Butte State Park offers a lake where you can fish and boat. Because of its historical and spiritual value, the park offers ways for visitors to learn more about the area if they're interested. There's also an educational center where you can learn even more about the mountain's historical significance.
When you're planning on renting an RV near Bear Butte State Park, there are a few things you need to consider. Because this park is relatively small, there aren't many sites available. All 15 primitive sites are first-come, first-served.
As far as the amenities you'll enjoy on your Bear Butte State Park camping trip go, you can expect showers, flushable toilets, and dump stations. There's also a playground for younger children to enjoy during the day. Do keep in mind that from October to the end of April, the showers, flushable toilets, and other water systems might be closed. You can always contact the park to see whether they're up and running beforehand.
Bringing pets is another matter. While you can certainly keep your pets confined to your campsite, they're not allowed on the trails. This goes especially for the Summit Trail, which becomes too narrow to safely accommodate both a hiker and a pet. If your pet needs exercise, the park suggests that you take them to the horse camp across from Highway 79.
Outside of Bear Butte State Park, you'll find plenty of things to do in the town of Sturgis and further afield. Within the town itself, motorcycle enthusiasts might find that the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is a wonderful place to spend some time. If motorcycles aren’t your style and you'd rather explore some history, you can travel down to Fort Meade to see the Fort Meade Museum. This building served as a military installation from when it was built in 1878 until 1944. If you enjoy history, this spot is absolutely a must-see.
If you're in the mood to experience more of what nature has to offer, you might want to consider visiting the Petrified Forest of the Black Hills. This beautiful natural area is quite close to the Black Hills National Forest, but the petrified forest offers a unique experience that you can't find anywhere else. Walk among ancient trees transformed into stone, then check out the fossils and informative displays in the museum which explain how these trees came to be.
Considering that there are no hookups at the campground for your camper rental, you'll want to make sure that you're stocked up on supplies. Thankfully, the town of Sturgis is located about six miles southwest of the park. This sizable town is a convenient place to take care of all your gas, food, and shopping needs before setting up camp at Bear Butte State Park. You can also expect the restaurants in the area to have an American menu, although there are a handful of local specialties.