Is Hill City Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On April 20, 2024
Hill City, United States
Safety Index:
83
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Hill City, South Dakota, the “Heart of the Black Hills,” is one of the best places to visit and stay when exploring the national parks, forests, and landmarks in the region.

What started as a mining town in the late 1800s has turned into a major tourism corridor, with Hill City being between the equally popular Deadwood and Hot Springs.

Even though the city has fewer than 1,000 residents, nearly 3.5 million people come through this region annually.

It’s centrally located between Black Hill National Forest, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore.

At the same time, Hill City has been ranked as one of the top three friendliest cities in South Dakota, known for its welcoming appeal and down-home charm.

The lively small-town atmosphere also includes plenty of tours, museums, art displays, and dining options that suit all tastes and styles.

Warnings & Dangers in Hill City

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk in Hill City with a plethora of things to do in the city and around the county and public lands.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

As of this publication, Hill City is working on a transportation plan, and the trolley that used to service the region is closed. You'll need a rental car anyway to get to this part of the state, so it makes sense to use that as your main transportation resource. Taxis and rideshares, when available, will be costly since the region is so spread out.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Just four pickpockets have been reported in the past decade. While it's a statistically low risk, it's definitely one you should treat as a medium risk with so many people traveling through here.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Treat this as a medium risk since disruptive, severe, or dangerous weather *can happen year-round. Just being aware of the risks and checking the forecast will go a long way, especially to avoid being stuck out in the wilderness when a storm approaches. Tornados, wildfires, flash flooding, and blizzards are the biggest risks.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

This is a low risk, with fewer than six happening each year across the entire county. Don't let your guard down, but don't overly worry about it either.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

Icons like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse will always come with an elevated risk of a terrorist attack, especially around major holidays. At the same time, they come with a lot of extra security. The best thing you can do is remain aware of your surroundings and report anything suspicious.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Review scam and fraud information websites, like local law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Better Business Bureau. You'll get a great overview of what to look for with scammers. While the risk is low, you keep it that way by being aware of manipulative tactics.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

There's nothing in the crime data that indicates women have a greater risk. This is a place where women of all ages come to visit. It will help to review wilderness and wildlife safety if you're not used to being in such a natural area.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance. You can read the report on the city's website. Be sure if you're going to the parks or forest you have a way to clean your own drinking water in the backcountry.

Safest Places to Visit in Hill City

VisitHillCitySD.com is the name of the tourism website for the region.

It is brought to you by the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association.

For a look at the larger Black Hills region, check out BlackHillsBadlands.com.

You can download the Digital Visitor’s Guide without having to give personal information.

You can purchase an America the Beautiful interagency pass for $80 to get access to all National Park Service, National Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management sites in the country.

It will save you a bunch of money in this region, as you have the following sites to explore:

  • Mount Rushmore: Marvel at the iconic faces of past presidents carved into the Black Hills.
  • Black Hills National Forest: Embark on outdoor adventures such as hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife watching in the expansive wilderness of the Black Hills.
  • Wind Cave National Park: Explore one of the world’s longest and most complex cave systems, known for its unique boxwork formations.
  • Jewel Cave National Monument: Discover the intricate beauty of Jewel Cave, the third-longest cave in the world, featuring sparkling calcite crystals and stunning cave formations.
  • Black Hills National Forest: Explore the forest’s stunning landscapes via scenic drives like the Needles Highway or Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, offering breathtaking views of rugged rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and dense pine forests.

Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial have separate entrance fees, but both are still two amazing locations to see in the Black Hills.

At Custer, you can see the bison and antelope roam across 71,000 acres.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a great place to learn about Native American history in the Black Hills.

Explore the world of paleontology at the renowned Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, home to fascinating dinosaur exhibits and educational programs.

That is in Hill City, not in the national forest.

Take a scenic journey aboard the vintage 1880 steam train, which departs from Hill City and travels through the beautiful Black Hills countryside to Keystone and back.

Rides are available from May through October.

Delve into the state’s rich history of railroading at the South Dakota State Railroad Museum through interactive exhibits and vintage train cars.

The South Dakota Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum honors the men who worked during the Great Depression on conservation projects on public lands.

Look for a scenic byway that suits your interests, like the Wildlife Loop that includes “Begging Burros” approaching cars for crackers and Needles Highway with stunning geological features.

You’ll also find tour guides, helicopter rides, wineries, and souvenir shops in Hill City and surrounding communities.

If you’re looking for water-based activities, head up to Pactola Lake.

It’s worth the hour’s drive to Hot Springs to see the Mammoth Site, an indoor archaeological ice age goldmine.

From life-sized dinosaurs to hands-on exhibits, there’s a lot to learn in a climate-controlled setting open year-round.

Places to Avoid in Hill City

Hill City follows the highway for about two miles, with plenty of hotels along the way.

However, it’s not a large enough place to have a good vs bad part of town.

You don’t really need to avoid anywhere here, but you do want to check the road, weather, and wildlife conditions before you go too far out of the city.

Use SD 511’s app and/or website for that information.

Also, avoid going to public lands without a paper map.

Between limited mobile phone service and potentially wrong GPS programming, the paper map can be a lifesaver.

You can also download offline maps for your phone, but that’s only as helpful as long as your battery lasts.

Finally, Hill City is one of the stops for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

If that’s not something that interests you, avoid this area in late August.

Hotel rooms will be scarce, and crowds will be huge.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Hill City

  1. The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement for Hill City. You can follow them on Facebook @PennCoSheriff or call (605) 394-6113 with specific safety questions.
  2. Use the Everbridge Program to sign up for emergency alerts through Pennington County. This will include severe or disruptive weather events or other threats to public safety.
  3. Download the National Park Service app and save your favorite parks. You’ll be able to check alerts and park conditions for the selected sites. Always check this before you go.
  4. Fishing or hunting requires a license from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. You will need a non-resident license, and it is required that you keep that license on you at all times during your recreational activity.
  5. If you have any information about a crime that has been committed or want to report suspicious activity, you can report that through the Crime Tips form on the sheriff’s website. It’s a great way to help keep crime rates low.
  6. You can enjoy the wildlife in the region, but stay at least 25 yards back from elk and bison. Also, fall brings the rut for elk, which means they’ll be noisier and more aggressive.
  7. Review the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace, which will impact how you explore public lands. That includes carrying out whatever trash you create along the way and staying on designated trails.
  8. Winter visitors should consider taking snowshoe hikes or snowmobiling trails with a guide. With more than 400 miles of trails, it’s easy to get lost or turned around in an area where nobody can find you.
  9. Before exploring any backcountry trails, check to see if you need a permit and always talk to a ranger about the conditions, wildlife sightings and other risks.
  10. You can read the Call for Service log on the Sheriff’s Department website, which will show the most recent calls to police in Hill City, among other communities in the county.

So... How Safe Is Hill City Really?

The challenge with talking about crime rates in Hill City, a town of fewer than 1,000, is that law enforcement comes from the county sheriff, which covers a large patch of land and more than 100,000 people.

We just don’t have specific crime data for each town.

This could present a problem, but when the county has overall low crime rates and low thefts, on top of almost no crimes against strangers, it brings a sigh of relief.

Rapid City is one of the more “dangerous” cities in the region, but you can read our article about that location on this website.

The real safety risk is mostly in your hands, as it involves being aware of the wilderness risks, weather safety steps, and survival skills.

This region is truly one of the most special in America, so hopefully, you enjoy as much of it as possible.

How Does Hill City Compare?

CitySafety Index
Hill City83
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

The visa requirements are detailed on the U.S. State Department website, which either entails getting a visa or a visa waiver. A passport needs to be at least six months from expiring.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. Try to reserve as much as possible ahead of time, and you can even purchase the national park passes online.

Weather

Weather

Winters are long and cold here, sometimes dangerously cold, with wind chills that plummet well below zero. You'll need many layers of high-quality insulated clothing and rugged boots. Spring and fall can be chilly still, especially in the mornings. Summers will be warm and arid. Bring bug spray and sunscreen.

Airports

Airports

The Rapid City Regional Airport is 45 minutes away. Given the remote location, it's really the only option. Even driving to Denver would be six hours on the road.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance is the best investment to cover any potential delay, emergency, or weather issue. Be sure the policy includes roadside assistance and healthcare if your personal medical policy coverage doesn't extend to the U.S.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Hill City Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -5° C
Feb -4° C
Mar 0° C
Apr 5° C
May 10° C
Jun 15° C
Jul 19° C
Aug 18° C
Sep 13° C
Oct 7° C
Nov 0° C
Dec -5° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
3481217232726221583
Low
°C
-13-12-8-3271093-2-8-13
High
°F
373946546373817972594637
Low
°F
9101827364550483728189

South Dakota - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Brookings80
Deadwood80
Hill City83
Mitchell81
North Sioux City70
Pierre81
Rapid City57
Sioux Falls76
Spearfish80
Sturgis80

Where to Next?

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