2024 State Game Lodge Summer Blast now live! Stay dates: July 26 - October 19

Woman sticking out her hand to feed wildlife

Wildlife Loop Road

Keep eyes peeled for bison, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer, elk, coyotes, burros, prairie dogs, and more!

A Major Wildlife Hotspot

Travel through 18 miles of open grasslands and pine-speckled hills that much of Custer State Park's wildlife calls home. Keep eyes peeled for bison, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer, elk, coyotes, burros, prairie dogs, eagles, hawks, and a variety of birds that are rarely found together in one location. A medley of colorful wildflowers and prairie grasses surround the road, making for a picturesque drive; and the landscape changes throughout your trip, keeping you on your toes.

Map of the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park in South Dakota

How long is the Wildlife Loop?

The Wildlife Loop itself is 18 miles long from the east entrance near the Custer State Park Visitor Center around to the Blue Bell entrance on the western side of the Park. Expect a minimum travel time of anywhere between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete the loop that creates a "U" from one end to the other.

Important Note: Anyone wishing to complete the full circle of the loop, continuing on from Blue Bell's entrance station back around to your starting point at the east entrance/Visitor Center (continuing north on Hwy 87 and then east on US 16A Scenic) should plan for an additional 12 miles (estimated 30 minutes) travel time. But careful...you may run into a few scenic overlooks, historic sites, restaurants, lodges & more along the way that beg for more time to explore.

Download Map
Buffalo in the grasslands eating

When Is the Best Time to Go?

Anytime! The Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway is open year-round to visitors with a South Dakota State Park Entrance License. (Temporary Custer State Park passes also available). The wildlife tend to be more active before the afternoon sun; but varied weather conditions and the extremely diverse topography of the Wildlife Loop keep both visitors and creatures alike on their toes 24-7. After all, it's the bison's Park, and all animals are wild and free-roaming.

The annual Tatanka Guide is Custer State Park's primary publication that is handed out at all Entrance Stations and available at all Lodges, Restaurants, and Stores.

Download the Tatanka

Book a Jeep Tour of the Wildlife Loop

Our Buffalo Safari Jeep Tours are ranked in the Top 10 Safaris in the US. Why? Success rate! Our Jeeps have exclusive access rights to take you on private dirt & gravel roads across the interior acres of the Wildlife Loop. This adds available routes that nearly double the accessible miles that run through nearly 1/4 of Custer State Park's 71,000 acres.

The Wildlife Loop is a wonderful self-guided tour that is open to everyone! Our Buffalo Safaris help ensure that you not only get a guided tour to the animals; but but also get as close as possible to them, no matter where they are that day.

Book a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour

The Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway is open year-round to visitors with a South Dakota State Park Entrance License. (Temporary Custer State Park passes also available). Drive the Loop yourself, or book a guided Jeep tour to get access to exclusive trails inside the Loop.

As with all animals in the Park, the burros roam freely. Elk can be especially elusive, so getting to them is a real treat. For any specific animal requests, we suggest you book a Private Jeep Safari so that you can tell your driver which animals, scenic stops, and other experiences top your list. Requests are not guaranteed; but our tours are your best possible chance, as we have exclusive access to private Park roads to try and spot them.

Choose your own adventure! Many visitors prefer to drive the Wildlife Loop in their own private vehicle; others enjoy taking our Buffalo Safari Jeep Tours so they know they will have access to even the private roads to get to the animals. We even offer a guided Jeep Tour followed by our Hayride & Chuckwagon Cookout every evening that visitors rave about. No matter what you decide, the Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway is a peaceful, welcoming and awe-inspiring experience.

Modernized Restrooms can be found at:

East Entrance of the Loop:

South end of the Loop:

  • Custer State Park Bison Center

West End (Blue Bell Entrance):

Other porta-johns are available along US 16A Scenic and at the Wildlife Station.

At one end of the Wildlife Loop, discover Blue Bell Lodge. A mile down the road from the other end is the Historic State Game Lodge. And if you decide to make the full circle along US 16A Scenic, you will run into Legion Lake Lodge. (And if that's not enough, continue on to take Needles Highway from there up to Sylvan Lake Lodge!)

Gift Shops & Stores with convenience items & snacks:

  • Coolidge General Store (gas & groceries found here)
  • State Game Lode Gift Shop
  • Bison Center Gift Shop
  • Blue Bell Store
  • Legion Lake Store (in the Lodge)

The State Game Lodge and Blue Bell Lodge are both less than one mile from either entrance of the Wildlife Loop. The "U" of the Wildlife Loop does not have any lodging along it; but US 16A Scenic takes you to The State Game Lodge, Legion Lake Lodge, and even on up Needles Highway to Sylvan Lake Lodge.