Why Bear Country USA should be on everyone’s Black Hills & Yellowstone itinerary

    Didn’t quite spot the animals you thought you would in Yellowstone? Don’t worry, Bear Country USA outside Rapid City, SD has you covered…

    Bear Country USA has saved us so many times… Let me explain.

    As a tour director, I spend a good chunk of the summer going in and out of Yellowstone National Park, and while it’s always phenomenal, sometimes the animals just don’t line up along the road like I want them to. Sometimes, we’re lucky if we even see some bison. For a tour director, that’s stressful.

    Fear not, though, because I always take my groups to Bear Country USA at the end of our trips. It’s my fail-safe way to ensure my guests, many from far overseas, get to see plenty of pretty much every animal found naturally in Yellowstone and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

    Bear Country USA is perfectly situated on the way to Mt. Rushmore from Rapid City so it’s an easy place to build into your Black Hills itinerary.

    Bear Country USA is best described as 2 different experiences… First, you have the drive-through portion where visitors creep through multiple habitats featuring elk, goats, wolves, bison, mountain lions, and even reindeer.

    via Flickr

    For most people, the obvious highlight of the driving portion is the huge collection of black bears and for good reason- it’s awesome. Bears lazily recline on stumps or swim in the little ponds or play with one another. I’ve heard 52 grown adults giggle like school kids as we drove through the black bear area.

    The whole driving portion is self-paced, and you’re welcome to pull over and bask at any animals you like. Assuming a bear hasn’t sat in front of you and refused to move (true story- happened to us last June), the drive-through will take you anywhere from a half hour to an hour.

    via Flickr

    While it’s a pretty awesome hour, it’s not even close to our favorite part of Bear Country USA. That comes after at the Wildlife Walk portion of the park.

    Up at the Wildlife Walk, you’ll find a massive gift shop, a big ol’ grizzly bear, smaller animals like foxes, beavers, and porcupines.

    Finally, you’ll find our favorite part of Bear Country USA: the bear cubs!

    Separated from their mothers to ensure good nutrition, health, and temperament, the bear cubs have their own play area at the far end of the Wildlife Walk loop. Here, the bear cubs play, climb, and enjoy themselves just feet from visitors.

    Bear Cub Photo Gallery:

    Admission to Bear Country USA is fairly priced ($11-$17) with discounts for military families and a $65 maximum vehicle price. Riding your motorcycle through the Black Hills? Fear not, they have courtesy vehicles for you and even run special buses during Sturgis.

    Whether you’re just passing through on the way to Mt. Rushmore or trying to find all the animals you thought you’d see in Yellowstone, Bear Country USA will not disappoint.

    Visit their webpage for more info and follow them on Facebook for all sorts of adorable animal pictures.