Rising like an island from a sea of grasslands on the Great Plains of South Dakota and Wyoming, the Black Hills are somewhat of an anomaly: The hills are actually mountains, and they aren't really black. This relatively small mountain range runs east-west, as opposed to the north-south direction of the major ranges of North America.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the Black Hills. The memorial is about 35 miles from Rapid City Regional Airport. (Visitor information: (605) 574-2523; http://www.nps.gov/)
At the western edge of the Black Hills in Wyoming sits the first declared national monument in the United States, Devils Tower. Hiking and rock climbing are the major activities at Devils Tower. (Visitor Information: (307) 467-5283; http://www.nps.gov/)
The Black Hills get their name from the Native American Lakota tribe, who called them "Paha Sapa," which translates into "hills that are black." When viewed from a distance, the blanket of pine trees covering the hills at first appears black in contrast to the lighter-colored grasslands of the surrounding prairie.
Most of the Black Hills area is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, which maintains 30 fee-based campgrounds in the area. Free wilderness camping is also available outside of the campgrounds. (Visitor information: (877) 444-6777; http://www.recreation.gov)
The two area drives most often recommended by the Forest Service are the Spearfish Canyon and Peter Norbeck Scenic Byways. The byways are two-lane, lower-speed-limit roads.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Just a few miles away from Mount Rushmore, an entire mountain is being turned into a sculpture of the Lakota hero Crazy Horse. Grander in scale than Mount Rushmore, the mountain memorial was begun in 1948 and is still far from completion. (Visitor information: (605) 673-4681; http://www.crazyhorsememorial.org)