The Black Hills in South Dakota offers a beautiful oasis among the wild plains of the Midwest. And for people who crave mountains, lakes, and streams, this truly is a refuge. After living around the Black Hills for years, I have put together the ultimate photo location guide for the Black Hills, South Dakota.

A quick note about this area, like many places nowadays, summer in the Black Hills can get a little crowded. So, come ready for bigger crowds or early mornings for some of these locations if you come in the summer. Or, if you are willing to wait till the shoulder/off-season, and you will have more of the Black Hills to yourself. Sooooo, let’s go.

Sylvan Lake

Starting off our Ultimate Photo Locations Guide is Sylvan Lake, a small lake located within Custer State Park; and probably one of the more beautiful and unique locations. The lake exists due to a dam on the north end, which makes for fun photos. But more noteworthy is the extreme topography on the northern end. The needle-like rocks on the other side of the lake are beautiful and will only complement your adventurous side. A plus, this is the trailhead for Black Elk Peak, which, fun fact, is the highest elevation between Rocky Mountain National Park and the Pyrenees Mountains in France.

Custer State Park | Blue Hour Photography | Lake | Black Hills | South Dakota | Custer | Mountains | Reflection of mountains in lake | Sunrise Photopgraphy

Badlands National Park

OK, so I know that Badlands National Park is not in the Black Hills exactly, but it is worth mentioning. And realistically, this deserves a post by itself, but when looking at the Black Hills, you should consider the Badlands National Park. The extreme topography and landscapes in the Badlands make it seem like you are on another planet and make for breathtaking photos. A plus, you might see some incredible wildlife here too!! Many locations along the main Park road won’t disappoint, or if you are feeling a little adventurous, a few short hikes will take you to some fun locations. If you want to know more, check out this post about your next photo shoot in Badlands National Park.

Pactola Lake

Are you an avid outdoor person? Or does your family love to vacation at lakes? Do you enjoy fishing? Well, friend, this lake is for you! It’s enormous and gorgeous, and you will undoubtedly find many places for you and your family to take your picture, with breathtaking scenery and grand landscapes. But this location is not only for outdoorsy people. If you love large lakes with forested views, this will be perfect for you!

Beach | Lake | Pactola Lake | Couples Photography |
Beach | Lake | Pactola Lake | Couples Photography |

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is another place that can be its own post, but Sylvan Lake was worth its own bullet point in this post. So, let’s quickly mention some other places within Custer State Park. The first, Stockade Lake, can be classified as just another Black Hills Lake, but it’s on the larger side within Custer State Park and will provide different backdrops for your photos. The second is the Visitor Center. It’s surrounded by beautiful fields and large trees, so you can frolic your heart out and take some fun photos. Lastly, the Wildlife Loop, you never know what you will see here, bison, elk, a donkey? You will be highly entertained while getting your photos taken. Check out this map to see more!

Downtown Couple | Alley Way Couple | magical moment | romantic couple


This town was made famous after the HBO show Deadwood, and it is SO much fun! Think Wild West meets Vegas. The storefronts are a little more modern than you would expect, but you can still get some olde timey-style photos done here. And no, you do not have to wear all the skirts, unless you want to. Regardless, it’s worth a visit; the photos will be a bonus.

Spearfish Canyon

There is nothing like Spearfish Canyon in the fall. This narrow river-carved canyon is beautiful year-round, but especially in the fall. Many pull-outs, scenic overlooks, or short hikes make for unique backdrops, such as Bridal Veil Falls or Little Spearfish Falls. This is also a popular local climbing area, so if you want to add a little adventure to your next photoshoot, let’s freaking go!

Spearfish, SD

The town of Spearfish is like a smaller version of Jackson Hole, WY, but with less dramatic views. It’s a cute little mountain town in the Northern Hills that makes you feel all cozy. Downtown Spearfish, the town sign, and the hatchery are a few of my favorite places for photos. But many other places might suit you and your partner’s personality!

Devils Tower National Park

This is another place not really within the Black Hills but is worth mentioning when speaking of this area. This made the cut for the Ultimate Photo Location Guide for the Black Hills because the unique topography of this area has resulted in some eccentric movies; ever heard of Close Encounters of the Third Kind? The stunning monolith can provide and unique backdrop to your next photo shoot. It should be mentioned that this area has such a rich history and plays a significant part in many Native American tribes’ cultures, so please be respectful when visiting these areas.

Skate Date | Downtown | Fun Date | Retro | Spearfish | South Dakota | Black Hills | Sunset
Couple in field | Couple embracing | Cute couple | open field | Black Hills | South Dakota | Midwest |
Couple in field | Couple embracing | Cute couple | open field | Black Hills | South Dakota | Midwest | Couple laughing

It really doesn’t matter where you go in the Black Hills. You are almost guaranteed to find unique backdrops and fun locations for your next adventure. It depends on whether you want canyons, rivers, lakes, or mountain views.  But here is the ultimate photo location guide for the Black Hills, South Dakota.

Let me know in the comments if I missed your favorite spot in the Black Hills!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *