Home to several agate mining operations up until the 1980’s, Tepee Canyon is in an area no longer open to federal mining claims; making it a premier rockhounding hot spot in South Dakota.
When to visit: Spring, Fall, Winter (if dry), Summer (if cool)
What you can find: Tepee Canyon agate, jasper, fossil shells, calcite.
What to bring: Rock hammer, chisels, pick axe, buckets, backpack, water, snacks.
Where to stay: The area north of US HWY 16 is off limits to camping. The area South of the highway is open to dispersed camping. The town of Custer is 25 minutes East on HWY 16 and has many hotels and campgrounds.
Getting there: From Custer, South Dakota travel west on HWY. 16 / Mt. Rushmore Rd. approximately 17 miles. After a long descent you will reach FS Rd. 458. Another 0.8 mile will bring you to FS Rd. 456. Both are seasonal forest service road that is closed from Nov. 15 – May 15. Site A is reached via FS Rd. 458 and site B can be accessed via FS Rd. 456. Parking at the entrance of both forest service roads can be reached year round with any vehicle. 4WD is recommended when travelings forest service roads.
One of the easiest ways to have success is to explore the old mine tailings in the area. Pick up and turn over the large limestone rock looking for nodules embedded in the limestone. Sites A & B were commercial mines that used heavy machinery to move the hard limestone overburden. Many large agates were found in the commercial operations and some very nice smaller agates were overlooked. Rockhounds have been turning the tailings here for decades, however the area is still one of the best in the Black Hills for finding agates.