Wolves and badgers and bears — oh my! When you take a trip through Bear Country USA, these are just a few of the animals you’ll get to encounter up close and personal.
Bear Country started in 1972, when founders Dennis “Doc” Casey and his wife, Pauline, opened the park. They originally housed 11 black bears, one cougar, one wolf, three buffalo, and one elk. Today, the park is home to the largest privately owned collection of black bears in the country, as well as a host of animals that include arctic wolves, bobcats, mountain lions, and more. Bear Country does not take animals from the wild, but they do work with state departments to re-home and care for animals that can safely be around humans. The animals aren’t tame, but they do have to be laid-back enough to not pose a threat to visitors to the park. Bear Country also partners with local organizations to provide Black Hills families with fun and educational opportunities with animals.
Today, Bear Country covers over 200 acres and offers an animal experience beyond the typical zoo. Your family will meander on a drive through several enclosures, where you’ll get to see animals up close as they frolic in their natural habitat. Reindeer, elk, and buffalo roam on grassy plains, while the bears enjoy ponderosa pines and mountain lions laze on rocky outcrops. You can expect to spend an hour and a half to two hours in the park, and possibly more in busy summer months. Keep your car windows closed the entire time — the animals get to roam free, and while they are cute, they are wild!
The drive through the park ends after three miles, but the fun doesn’t have to! After you exit the wildlife enclosures, park your car and get ready to see the smallest residents of Bear Country. The Wildlife Walkway is home to otters, woodchucks, porcupines, and more, including the crowd-favorite bear cubs. The Bear’s Den is the on-site gift shop, where your family can pick up souvenirs of your favorite animals. You’ll also find the Cub Grub snack shack if you need to refuel your own pack of bear cubs.
When you visit Keystone, you’re just minutes away from the best the Black Hills offer. Bear Country USA is just up the road towards Rapid City, and it’s the perfect place to make family memories you can’t make anywhere else.