Do you love to spot wildlife on road trips? We do! We know from experience that black bear sightings are elusive in the wild, even in places like Yellowstone National Park. And you definitely don't want to get too close a look at a bear in the wild!
Bear Country U.S.A. offers a driving tour where you're guaranteed to see loads of black bears roaming through wide open spaces like they would in the wild. If that's not a slam dunk, I don't know what is. It's also located on the same road that you'll drive from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore.
Bear Country U.S.A. offers much more than bears. It is home to nearly two dozen species of North American mammals. These animals include black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, bighorn sheep, reindeer, bison, mountain lions, and a number of smaller animals and we were able to see nearly all of them either from our car or in Babyland without difficulty.
When you arrive, you'll drive up to the admission booth and directly into the wildlife loop. I recommend that you arrive at or near opening time if you can. In my experience, animals are more active in the cooler hours of the morning and there will be fewer other cars.
It took 20-30 minutes to drive slowly through the wildlife loop. The last and longest part of the drive was the black bear area, and bears were everywhere! It was fun to watch them walking around so close to our van.
It will be tempting to roll down your window to get a better photo or video of the bears without a glare. It's not safe, so don't do it. The rules about this are clear at Bear Country U.S.A. If your kids are like mine, they will never let you hear the end of it if you decide the rules don't apply to you.
After the drive, we parked and walked through Babyland. Babyland is the home of the baby bear cubs. It's also where the mature grizzly bears and all of the smaller animals live, but the baby bears are by far the best thing about Babyland. The yard is full of scampering, rolling, wrestling, climbing and just adorable baby bear cubs. The cubs were my FAVORITE part of Bear Country U.S.A.
Pets are welcome to drive through Bear Country with you, but only service animals are allowed in Babyland.
You can spend as much time as you like in Babyland. It will not take long to stroll through the habitats. Depending on the day, you may find animal presentations and family activities.
Consider packing a picnic and plan for some time in the gift shop. Bear Country U.S.A.'s gift shop is large and offers a variety of bear and Black Hills souvenirs.
Bear Country U.S.A. was a fun start to our Black Hills vacation. I recommend it for families who enjoy animal experiences.
Good to Know
Where: 13820 S. Highway 16, Rapid City, South Dakota. It's on the way to Mount Rushmore from Rapid City.
When: Bear Country is open daily from late April through late November, weather permitting.
How Much: $17 per adult and $11 per child (age 5-12), up to $65 maximum per vehicle. Admission is FREE for children age 4 and under. Senior, military and group discounts are available. Check Bear Country U.S.A.'s official website for current pricing.
How Long: 2-3 hours
Amenities: restrooms, gift shop, cafe, picnic area, family activities
How else can I help?
Traveling by air? Rapid City Regional Airport is the nearest airport to the Black Hills. Denver International is the nearest major airport. We recommend SkyScanner or AirfareWatchdog to compare fares from major airlines. Then book directly from the airline, rather than a 3rd party site. Find out why HERE.
Need a rental car? Driving your own car is the best way to see Bear Country U.S.A and the Black Hills. Find the best rates from dozens of agencies at RentalCars.com.
Need a place to stay? Rapid City makes a good base for this trip. It’s the biggest city in the area, with a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, shopping and other vacation amenities. Wherever you stay, get a room with an in-room refrigerator so that you can store picnic supplies. We stayed at Howard Johnson Inn and Suites and would stay there again. Click the buttons below to read my review or check availability for this hotel on TripAdvisor.