Backcountry Hikes: Custer State Park

South Dakota

GPS: 44°00'N 102°49'W

The bulls in Pamplona have nothing on the behemoth macho bison that inhabit the French Creek area of Custer State Park in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Give them—and any buffalo you encounter—wide berth. Fifteen hundred strong, the park’s free-ranging herd is one of the largest in the country. Elk, deer, and bighorn sheep also abound on this 12-mile (19-kilometer), one-way hike into the French Creek Natural Area. The terrain varies between open prairie, tight narrows, and a lush riparian zone where trout congregate in deep pools. No formal trail exists; just follow game paths and keep the stream in view.

Originally published in the April 2008 edition of National Geographic Adventure

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