BringFido's Guide to the Black Hills and Badlands

Posted by Billy Francis

From wonderful wildlife to otherworldly rock formations, this epic region in South Dakota is like nowhere else on the planet. A sacred place for Native Americans, the Lakota people call it Pahá Sápa, which means “the heart of everything that is.” Here, you and your pooch will discover nature at its finest, lodges where Fido can take a load off, and delicious restaurants that serve up staggering views with delicious food.

Things to Do

Photo by @themongrelpoet

Drive, hike and boat with your furry best friend through a land of stunning natural landscapes and vast open spaces.

Pontoon with your Pup

Located near Rapid City, Pactola Pines Marina offers a variety of pet-friendly boat rentals on the crystal waters of Pactola Lake. Float all day with your furry first mate on the largest reservoir in the Black Hills region. If you want a workout on the water, embark on a self-guided standup paddleboard tour with your Terrier or paddle with your pup in a kayak or canoe rental. Dogs are welcome for a $10 pet fee.

Go On a Drive That Rocks!

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, also known as Iron Mountain Road, is a figure-eight route designed to highlight the region’s incredible natural beauty. This 70-mile byway built in the 1930s winds through a portion of Custer State Park and a section of Needles Highway. It includes a peek-a-boo view of Mount Rushmore and a chance to drive through Needle Eye Tunnel. Fido can stretch his legs along the way at Cathedral Spires Hiking Trail.

Photo by BringFido/Billy Francis

Meet the Region’s Wild Side

Meet the animal residents of South Dakota at Custer State Park. The park's 18-mile Wildlife Loop leads through open grasslands and rolling hills to the park’s diverse animal population, which includes herds of bison, whitetail and mule deer, antelope, mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs. Then, jump out of the car and walk around Sylvan Lake, or even take a dip. Finish off your trip to Calvin Coolidge’s favorite state park with epic views from the top of Black Elk Peak.

Rad’ Off-Roading

Hop in a Mystic Hills Hideaway ATV and explore the South Dakota backcountry on four wheels with your furry co-pilot riding shotgun. The outfitter’s ATVs can accommodate up to four passengers and are street legal, but you’ll want to spend most of your time exploring some of the 650 miles of trails in Black Hills National Forest. Discover rugged rock formations, canyons, gulches, open grassland parks, streams and lakes on your adventure.

Photo by BringFido/Melissa Halliburton

Visit Slithering Residents

If you’re visiting Rapid City, the Gateway to the Black Hills, be sure to stop by Reptile Gardens. The world’s largest reptile park is home to 225 species of snakes, crocodiles, frogs, lizards, tortoises and other creatures. Catch a glimpse of the rare Komodo dragon before visiting the menagerie of cold-blooded creatures in the famous Sky Dome. Need a break from the creepy-crawlies? Visit the park’s prairie dog exhibit, where Fido can get up close and personal with these cute critters from an underground bubble.

Plunge with your Pooch

What better way to cool off than in a dog-friendly swimming hole? Hippie Hole is a hidden gem in the Black Hills region. This moderate trail is just over 1.5 miles out and back with a payoff that includes a natural pool to swim in and a waterfall that hikers can leap from. Or, visit Spearfish Canyon and take a dunk with your dog in the Devil’s Bathtub. It’s the same distance and difficulty as Hippie Hole, but features a natural rock slide into a pool.

Belly Up to the Bar

If you love beer almost as much as you love dogs, bring your best friend to Bar K-9 Indoor Dog Park and Bar. This fun indoor dog park offers welcome respite from hot summer temperatures and chilly winter weather common in the region. While Fido makes new friends and shows off on seesaws and more, sip on a beer or soda and watch the big game.

Places to Stay

Photo by @thedriftlessdog

Fido can sleep off his exertions in a cute cottage or have a nap in a pet-friendly Summer White House in this accommodating area of The Mount Rushmore State.

Sleep Tight in the Old West

After a day exploring South Dakota’s backcountry in an ATV, park up for the night and stay in a pet-friendly cabin at Mystic Hills Hideaway. These cozy homes have everything you and your nature-loving pup need, including kitchenettes, refrigerators, outdoor grills, picnic tables, and fire pits to gather around after sunset.

Walk to Wall Drug

The Little House on the Corner is just five minutes from Wall Drug and a short drive from Badlands National Park. Dogs can hang out off leash in the fenced backyard while you sit underneath the veranda in the gathering area or at the breakfast bar with a morning coffee. Inside, the cute little cottage has hardwood floors for easy cleanup and room for four guests to sleep comfortably.

Wake Up to Lake Views

Experience a solid gold stay with your Goldendoodle at Gold Camp Cabins near Custer. All five of the property’s cabins are pet friendly. Inside each one, you’ll find cozy bedrooms and bathrooms, but you’ll want to spend most of your time outdoors. Bring your rods along to fish in the property’s pond or take Fido on a walk around it at the end of the day.

Photo by @snackerdoodlesquad

Enjoy an Affordable Rapid City Stay

If you’re looking for a place to pause on a road trip through South Dakota, La Quinta Inn & Suites Rapid City is a popular pet-friendly hotel just off I-90. From cozy kings to family rooms, packs of all sizes will enjoy their stay at this convenient and affordable hotel. Outside, there’s a fenced space that allows dogs to roam before bedtime.

Photo by Airbnb

Catch 40 Winks in Spearfish

Dry off from your dip at Devil’s Bathtub and relax at Falsebottom Hide-away in Spearfish. Located in Maitland Canyon, Falsebottom Creek is right off the private back deck. This beautiful home also boasts a fenced space outside for dogs to run free, an enchanting outdoor dining area under the lights, an outdoor kennel and hardwood floors.

Mosey with your Mutt

Looking for a place to rest your head in the Northern Black Hills? The Lodge at Deadwood Gaming Resort will put you and your pooch up in a top notch room with a view of rolling hills from the balcony. Four-legged guests receive treats at check-in, and there is a pet relief area with fire hydrants just for Fido at the rear of the property.

Enjoy a Presidential Stay

Tucked among the ponderosa pines beside Grace Coolidge Creek, State Game Lodge in Custer State Park was once President Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House. Now, you and your pup can be a guest of the lodge in one of the property’s 19 pet-friendly cabins. After a restful night’s sleep, take Fido for a morning walk on the adjacent Creekside Trail and explore the park beyond your doorstep.

Dog-Friendly Restaurants

Photo by BringFido/Scott

Grab a Snack at a Local Landmark

Make a pit stop at Wall Drug and stock up on delicious food, all your road trip essentials and souvenirs. What started as a simple drug store in 1931 is now a shopping plaza and tourist attraction. While you’re here, order from favorites like homemade donuts or legendary hot beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and homemade gravy and eat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Wall Drug is also famously known for its free ice water, so your pup can hydrate while you’re here.

Sunbathe on a Pup-Friendly Patio

Elk stroganoff is on the menu at Murphy’s Pub and Grill in Rapid City. Located in a historic building that was once the home of The Rapid City Garage, this welcoming bar opened the doors to its second location in 1984. The original Murphy’s Bar was serving beer to locals back in the 1930s just after prohibition was repealed. Nowadays, you can sip a refreshing beer with your pup by your side on the pet-friendly patio.

Photo by BringFido/Susan

Baked Goods and Beers

Jacobs Brewhouse & Grocer is a family-owned and operated brewhouse, restaurant, bakery and gourmet market in Deadwood. Claiming to be the “home of the smoked brisket,” food offerings also include grilled salmon and smoked buffalo sausage. Shop for goodies to take home with you, or sit with your best friend and enjoy a hearty meal on the pet-friendly outdoor patio.

Tex-Mex on a Shady Patio

Dine with your dog on the shady pet-friendly patio at Thirsty's. Named after the owner’s beloved bulldog, Thirsty’s is a pet-friendly sports bar with a menu full of American favorites like juicy hamburgers, chunky fries and more. Ask your server for a hamburger patty with less salt for your pooch to enjoy while you eat your own handheld.

Photo by BringFido/Scott

“Paw” One Out for Presidents

Pups are welcome both inside and on the dog-friendly deck at Mt. Rushmore Brewing Company & Pounding Fathers Restaurant. The brewery combines malt from small farmers in North Dakota and cooperative farms in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest to create a selection of refreshing beers that range from a malty Scottish export to a light-bodied blonde ale and more. During the summer months, you can order a pizza from the seasonal kitchen.

Old West Eatery

Enjoy a traditional dining experience at Ruby House Restaurant in Keystone. This turn-of-the-century restaurant welcomes dogs and their owners onto the pet-friendly patio with a menu that includes prime rib, steak, and a variety of buffalo dishes for a taste of the Old West. Four-legged guests can cool down with a bowl of ice water while you eat.

Home Cooked and a Warm Welcome

The Canteen at The Custer Beacon welcomes you and your pooch to sit inside and stay for a meal. Pups can join their owners indoors because The Canteen’s kitchen is in a separate area. Serving home cooked comfort food full of heart and flavor, the restaurant invites you to sink your teeth into a Cubano sandwich, pulled pork, or shrimp tacos. Wash it down with a cold beer from the tap and follow it up with something from the rotating dessert menu.

Have you ever visited South Dakota with your best friend? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by BringFido/Monica.