Most of the major attractions and activities in Black Hills revolve around the isolated and escapist joy of hiking. It is easily one of the best things to do in the rolling mountains of the region. You can stay at one of our acclaimed Black Hills lodges and experience some of the best hiking in the country.
Whether it’s the iconic Mickelson Trail or the many smaller trails snug tightly in the ravines, you can never run short of spots for hiking in the Black Hills. Below are our favorite trails you need to put on your radar for your Black Hills getaway.
The Famous Mickelson Trail
Few trails are as awe-inspiring as that of the George S. Mickelson Trail. The trail carries you 109 miles through the expansive hills of South Dakota, with detours and winding pathways through Custer, Fall River, Lawrence, and Pennington counties.
The trail is epic and relentless in scale. The majority of the trail consists of crushed stone, giving you firm footing as you navigate across about 100 converted railway bridges and through four tunnels.
The trail is a challenge, but it varies as it crosses the foothills. Some portions are pressed up in the mountains, with slick slopes dropping off steeply on either side. It is not a family-friendly romp, but hiking-challenge enthusiasts will find completing the Mickelson Trail a wonderful notch on their belt.
With that said, many portions of the trail along Custer carry you through open prairies and wide-spanning ponderosa pines.
Trail highlights include a romp through Wind Caves National Park, the Crazy Horse Monument near Mount Rushmore, and Custer State Park, among others. Keep an eye out for bison, elk, and other common wildlife.
The Trails of Deadwood
Deadwood is arguably the second most popular attraction in the state next to Mount Rushmore. But if you want to take a brief break from the restaurants and shops of Deadwood, you can find some of the state’s best trails right in the area.
You can hike Mount Roosevelt by Deadwood. It is probably the most accessible nearby trail just 2 ½ miles from downtown Deadwood. It is famous for the Friendship Tower – an authentic historic structure built in 1919 conceived by the famous gunslinger and sheriff, Seth Bullock. It is a short trip to the tower, which you can climb for free.
The Homestake Trail is a little more ambitious. It weaves about 3 ½ miles connecting Deadwood to the town of Lead. Though it isn’t filled with major attractions, it is well-known for its steep elevation, the railroad bed, and views of the old Homestake Mills.
Finally, the trails through Spearfish Canyon are some of our most-often recommended hiking areas. These trails are only a short drive from many of our lodges, and they carry you to the aforementioned canyon for some of the state’s most staggering views. The canyon is about 22 miles long. Several substantial designated trails have been created to scale its edge and interior, including Community Caves, Devils Bathtub, and the 11th Hour Gulch.
Sturgis is a wonderful town worth stopping by during your South Dakota travels. Though it is famous for its annual motorcycle rally, you can find some brilliant biking and hiking in and just outside the town. One of the most approachable places to hike Sturgis is the Alkali Creek Nature Trail. At only a ½ mile long, it’s a nice quick hike along some gorgeous prairie land.
Take it up a level with the Bear Butte Trail, located about six miles north of Sturgis. This is a hiking trail only due to its narrow ledges and steep cliff sides with scenic views. The trail is well-known for its scattering of Native American landmarks, with prayer cloths, icons, and tobacco ties dedicated along the path. It is also famous for its buffalo herds.
This smaller trail is close to the 111-mile Centennial Trail – one of the most famous in the country, let alone Sturgis. Accessing the trail requires a day pass because it is inside the Bear Butte National Park. For the sights and the features of the park, it is worth the price of admission.
More To See
This is, undoubtedly, some of the best hiking you can find in South Dakota. Yet, it is only a short overview of what you can find in the intricate trail ways of the Black Hills, waiting for you just outside your vacation lodge.