Although nearby Bear Butte was an important landmark for pioneers and prospectors entering the Black Hills beginning in 1875, a permanent settlement wasn't established at Sturgis until 1878, when the U.S. Army constructed Fort Meade at the crossroads as the new home of Seventh Cavalry. As entrepreneurs moved in to supply the new military installation - particularly by building general stores, brothels and saloons - the city of Sturgis was born.
Today, Sturgis is best-known as the home of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a global gathering of bikers that happens each year during the first full week of August. Begun in the depths of the Great Depression, the rally has grown to become one of the largest in the world, regularly attracting about 500,000 people from all over the world, several major bike manufacturers and a week of big-name concerts.
However, the other virtues of this otherwise sleepy town are often forgotten in the shadow of the Rally. Bear Butte, which rises 1,253 feet above the surrounding prairie, continues to overlook the community. Now a state park, the distinctive mountain is excellent for hiking, and is revered as a holy site by many American Indian tribes. Although nearby Fort Meade is mostly decommissioned (a VA hospital still remains), the bulk of the post's territory is now a recreation area, with several trails crossing historical features (such as the post's former cemetery and barracks).
Rapid City is perhaps best-known for Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which is just a few minutes outside the city. The four granite faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lin…