On the stormiest weekend of this spring, 605’s John Snyder, Gabby Sudenga, and I packed up our Sprinter Van and drove out to the Black Hills to meet Carrie Gerlach—a South Dakota fanatic, travel addict, and owner of Black Hills Adventure Tours

After working in the tourism and sales industries for years, Gerlach was inspired to start her own tour company. She took out a bank loan, bought the equipment, and started giving tours in 2005. 

A few years into the venture, Gerlach pumped the brakes on the tours and got a second job in health care, intending to become a travel nurse. 

Soon, Gerlach began to notice how the tourism and health care industries went hand in hand. 

“You’re taking care of people, you’re planning things for people,” she said. “It’s kind of funny how that works.” 

“South Dakota is very family oriented. There’s other beautiful places to go, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” – Carrie Gerlach

Realizing that her true passion was the people, Gerlach shifted her focus back to the tours and began to find staff members organically along the way. Soon she gained the support she needed to go full time with the business. 

“I don’t know how I got so lucky,” she mused. “I can’t say enough good things about my staff. They’re awesome.”

On each sightseeing and adventure tour, Gerlach and her guides talk with the guests to determine what kind of adventure they will have together.

“It’s about a 10 minute conversation,” she says, explaining her staff’s knack for customizing a tour based on what her clients value most. 

Whether it’s wildlife, outdoor activities, sightseeing, museums, spooky locations, or even spontaneously getting married, Gerlach says she will stop at nothing to give her guests a good experience.

“I just love the guests,” she said. “I love the guests so much.”


+ 1880 Train 
+ Badlands Observatory 
+ Bear Country USA 
+ Black Hills National Forest 
+ Crazy Horse 
+ Custer State Park 
+ Devils Tower Trading Post 
+ Mount Rushmore National Memorial
+ Reptile Gardens
+ Rush Mountain Adventure Park
+ Rushmore Tramway Adventures
+ Sprockets
+ Tatanka Rez Tours
+ The Adams Museum
+ The Mammoth Site
+ Under Canvas

When the team picked us up from our hotel in Rapid City on Friday morning, they greeted us warmly in the hotel lobby, asking us about ourselves and our interests. Even though it was forecasted to rain the entire day (and it did), it was difficult to be worried because we knew the team had a plan. 

Gerlach took us biking on the Mickelson Trail and drove us along Needle’s Highway in Custer State Park

We broke out the kayaks on Sylvan Lake and sent a very brave Gabby out on the water with one of the guides. Though she’d never been kayaking before, the team agreed she was a natural.

We stopped for a group picture before Gerlach drove us along Palmer Creek Road, telling us jokes and historical facts as she went. 


Carrie is an officer or elected official for the following organizations:

» Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association
» Black Hills Vacations
» Museum Alliance Board of Rapid City
» Rapid City Arts Council
» Visit Rapid City

For lunch, we stopped at Miner Brewing Company in Hill City. Gabby and I promptly ordered the hot chocolate, along with the Pesto Chicken Sandwich and the Grilled Cheese. John ordered the Miner Lavender Cider and the Porchetta Sandwich.

The rain persisted, but we were surrounded by friendly conversation as Gerlach told us about her secret talent. 

“I can be anywhere in the Black Hills and I can tell you down to the minute how long it will take us to get from point A to point B,” she said. 

As we piled in the car, I asked her how far we were from our next destination, Mount Rushmore. “Twenty minutes,” she said casually. 

I watched the clock. She was right. 

“There’s something about the Hills that I just don’t ever want to leave.”Carrie Gerlach

The rain eased up just enough to let us take a spontaneous hike by the Doane Robinson Tunnel—one of three tunnels that frames the national monument. 

The team was eager to explore, dance, share their experiences, crack jokes, and take selfies with us. 

“This group is in for a good time no matter what the weather throws at you,” reflected John. 

With a spirited staff and the company’s many partnerships, we knew the possibilities were endless.

“I love it. That’s why I do it.” – Carrie Gerlach

“We work very closely with our partners to make sure that our guests are safe and that we are being sustainable so that we can be doing tours well into the future,” said Gerlach. 

Though our tour may have looked different because of the weather, Gerlach and her guides deftly exhibited their ability to make the best of every experience. 

“At the end of the day, we’re hugging each other. We’re best friends,” she said. “For me, that makes everything totally worth it.”

For more information, visit BLACKHILLSADVENTURETOURS.COM+
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