There are towns in the Black Hills of South Dakota known for their gold history, historical lawlessness, hot springs or national park sites. Sturgis is known for its incredible marque events.
And while its Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is probably the most well-known event, there’s far more to this town of 6,500 than a 10-day motorcycle festival. The town hosts 30-plus events year-round from Camaro and Mustang car rallies to a frosty winter triathlon, a popular weekly summer mountain bike race series and Music on Main, a weekly summer music concert series.
Plus, the town is within a short drive to all of the Black Hills’ greatest hits.
“We’re not in the central hills, but we are central to all the sites people want to see,” says Jerry Cole, director of Sturgis Rally & Events. “We’re less than an hour from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park.”
And if you want a true local’s tip, visit in the spring or fall when the crowds have left and you can enjoy places like Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave without waiting in lines or circling parking lots hoping for a parking spot. You’ll discover the trails, be it for hiking, biking, ATV or snowmobiling, are also less crowded.
“Most people don’t know we’re in among the top in the country for colors in the fall,” Cole says, noting the town’s impressive events schedule includes the Sturgis Supermoto Rally in September. “And in the spring the green of the hills is just amazing.”
Regardless of the time of year you’re there, don’t miss Weimer’s Diner & Donuts for breakfast or a snack.
“There’s a line at the door at 7 a.m. of people waiting for them to open up,” Cole says. “When they open the doors, those donuts are hot and fresh.”
Get Outside and Explore Bear Butte State Park
While there are 30 miles of mountain biking and hiking single-track right from Sturgis trailheads, they connect to another 60-80 miles of greater Black Hills single-track trails. There’s even a stunning state park six miles east of town. Visit Bear Butte State Park, home to the 4,426-foot Bear Butte. You’ll spend about 45 minutes to an hour hiking up 900 feet on the Summit Trail, a moderate trail. At the summit, you’ll see four states from its summit—Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Wear good hiking shoes, stay on the trail and avoid poison ivy that grows alongside the trail.
The butte is considered a sacred place to Native American tribes who have been visiting the site for at least 10,000 years as evidenced by the artifacts discovered on the butte. Today, more than 15 tribes continue to visit this spot to fast, pray and leave colorful bundles in the trees as prayer offerings. Please do not disturb them when you visit. While in the park, you also can hike on the 111-mile Centennial Trail and see the well-worn paths of wagon trains on the prairie.
Summer in Sturgis
In June and July, the town hosts Music on Main, a family-friendly event featuring live music every Wednesday at 6 p.m. Along with food trucks, there’s face painting, bounce houses, balloon-animal makers and a Strider bike course for the kids. The weekly mountain bike race series ends in downtown, as well, making for a fun scene. In 2020, President Trump attended a longtime Sturgis tradition, the fireworks show on July 3.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
This year marks the 80th year of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a milestone that event planners estimate will bring more than 600,000 people to town. It’s filled with concerts, including a Willie Nelson & Family show, street food, charity ride, area rides and more. It will take place Aug. 7-16, 2020. You can track the COVID cases in the state at the South Dakota state health department site here.
But if you’re not in town in August, you can still catch a glimpse of what this storied rally is all about. Head to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, where displays of motorcycles and their stories capture a special part of American history.
History buffs should head to Old Fort Meade Museum to learn more about the life of the edge of the Black Hills in the 1800s and the military history of the area. Fort Meade was established in 1878-79 and was a military post until 1944 when it was transformed into a veterans hospital.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally By the Numbers
|80||number of years the rally has occurred by end of 2020.|
|495,000||number of people who attended in 2019|
|28||number of miles from Belle Fourche.|
|2001||year the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame opened.|
|7||days a week the museum is open.|
|Aug. 7-16||are the 2020 rally dates.|
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