Category Archives: Hiking

New webpage

Please follow us at our new webpage http://outdoor.travelsd.com/.

Make sure to add it to your favorites and sign up to receive all of our new post.

Thank you again for following SD Outdoors!

Leave a comment

Filed under Biking, Camping, Fishing, General Outdoors, Hiking, Hunting, Winter Sports

Hiking in Badlands National Park

Home to breathtaking views and unique wildlife, Badlands National Park is a must-see. It is an area geographically made up of buttes, spires, and wild grasslands. In addition to the world-famous landscape, the area also offers some of South Dakota’s premier hiking opportunities. There is truly a trail for everyone! The Badlands has trails suitable for experienced hikers looking for a strenuous climb or newcomers like myself who have a more moderate trail in mind.

Easy Trails

For people new to hiking, or if you’re simply short on time, try hiking the Door Trail. This trail is rated as an easy and accessible trail. Leading through a break in the Badlands wall known as “the door,” Door Trail gives a stunning and classic view of the Badlands. On average this hike takes about 20 minutes.

Another great option for hikers seeking an easy trail is Windows Trail. It’s another roughly 20 minute trail with a once-in-a-lifetime view of an intricately eroded canyon within Badlands National Park.

Moderate Trails

Cliff Shell Trail offers a ½ mile (round trip) and approximately 30 minute hike. This moderate-rated hike climbs stairs through a juniper forest. A small pond occasionally exists in the area of the Cliff Shell Trail and draws wildlife. This hike climbs about 200 feet in elevation.

If you’re looking to spend more time in Badlands National Park, try hiking Medicine Root Loop. Hikers of this trail are provided the opportunity to explore the mixed grass prairie while enjoying views of the Badlands in the distance. However, watch out for cactus! This 4-mile (round trip) hike takes roughly two hours.

If seeing the wide variety of landscapes is important to you and you have the time, I recommend hiking Castle Trail. Castle Trail is a moderate hiking trail that is 10 miles (round trip) and is approximately a 5 hour hike. On this trail you will see the different landscapes of Badlands National Park as it intersects with smaller hiking trails.

Strenuous Trails

If you are straddling the line between a moderate and strenuous hike, Notch Trail will suit your needs. Notch Trail meanders through a scenic canyon. Hikers must climb a log ladder and follow a ledge to “the Notch” for a dramatic view of the White River Valley. If you’re afraid of heights, then this hike is not the hike for you. This trail is 1.5 miles (round trip) and takes approximately 1 ½ -2 hours to complete.

For visitors who are experienced and to those looking for a challenge, Saddle Pass is the hiking trail for you. This ¼ mile strenuous hike takes between ½ hour -1 hour to complete. This short trail climbs up the Badlands Wall to a view over the White River Valley.

So, if you are seeking a true South Dakota outdoor adventure, tie up those shoelaces, grab a bottle of water, lather on the sunscreen and get to hiking some of the world’s most unique landscape. It’s also a good idea to bring a GPS along if you have one, if not, and you’re going out on an all day hike, let a park ranger know where you plan to hike.

For more information on more hiking trails and hiking tips in Badlands National Park visit the National Parks Website for Badlands National Park.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hiking

Badlands Backcountry

The Badlands national park backcountry is like no other hiking experience on earth. The rugged peaks, colorful, clay mounds and green prairie grass combine to stimulate the senses of any hiker able to get off the beaten path. There are many trails just off the scenic byway, but getting into the interior is where the secrets of the badlands come alive.

Like any other backcountry trip the most important thing is preparation and planning. The best place to start planning is the Ben Reifel visitor center. Here you can purchase topographical maps of the area and consult with a ranger. There are no designated trails in the Badlands backcountry so a GPS is highly recommended.

Water is the main concern for anyone planning to overnight in the Badlands. The desert-like landscape is almost completely void of the resource. If, however, water is found, it is likely non-potable and filled with much sediment. Filtering and boiling is possible if you have the right equipment. It is recommended to carry all of the water you will need for your trip.

Entering and exiting the backcountry is easiest from one of the many parking areas in the Badlands. It is important to ask a ranger which parking areas are designated for leaving a car overnight. This will eliminate the chance of a ticket or towing while hiking. There are a couple of places to register for a backcountry permit but it is not required. Registration can be found at the Ben Reifel visitor center and at the Sage Creek wilderness area.

While in the backcountry, the same rules and regulations of many national parks apply. You may not build a fire and you must camp out of site of any road or path. There are no designated camping areas, but it is recommended to camp on grass, as it will recover quickly. “Leave no trace” is the best rule to follow while hiking and camping in the Badlands.

If properly planned, a backpacking trip into the Badlands of South Dakota will be an unforgettable experience.

For more information including fees, maps, contact numbers, and season dates visit www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Camping, Hiking

Hiking the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills

Hiking the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills

Memorial Day weekend proved to be a great weekend out on the Centennial Trail. After 25 miles of hiking, I’d come to the conclusion that no one else wanted to hike on this holiday. It was as though I had the whole Black Hills to my self!

I started hiking at the Rapid Creek trailhead just below the Pactola Reservoir dam. Only 16 miles from Rapid City, it’s a great place to begin or end a hike. Rapid City has all the amenities for the post or pre-hike, like hotels,  restaurants, gear, trail food, and maps.

I headed south on the Centennial trail and found the terrain to vary greatly. It started out with a slow uphill climb through pine and aspen forest. After a few more miles it opened up to big, green hills with no trees. It was a huge, open prairie in the middle of the hills. There were no trees and beautiful vistas of Harney Peak and the back of Mount Rushmore could be seen from the grassy hilltops.

The grassy hills soon gave way to the forest as I made my way along Brush Creek. The terrain was once again filled with giant ponderosa pine trees. I stopped and filtered the cold, crystal clear water of Brush Creek into my camel bak. The day was warm and sunny and I still had not encountered another person.

I camped just above Sheridan Lake that night. I found a flat spot on the upper side of a meadow, filled with fresh springs. I had a great view of Harney Peak and the giant, granite spires jutting upward out of the Black Elk Wilderness to the south. The night was very still and clear. I was able to sleep with a light sleeping bag and no rain cover over the tent. It was absolutely and wonderfully peaceful.

The next day I headed south and wound my way around Sheridan Lake. I stopped on the big wooden bridge spanning the spillway and took in the view of all the Memorial Day boaters. Aha! That’s where all the people were. I seceded the lake to the crowd and stuck with the trail. I guess I prefer me and the trees. 

After leaving Sheridan Lake, the hill climbs abruptly for about 3 miles. It is a strenuous hike but worth the views. Eventually after about 6 miles you make it to Highway 16, one of the main thoroughfares in the Black Hills. The trail crosses the road at Samelius Trailhead and continues south to Horsethief Lake. I stopped the hike here, just before entering the Black Elk Wilderness.

It was here that I met the only other person on the trail. He was a gentleman, approximately 40 years old and in good spirits. He told me he was three days into hiking all 109 miles of the Centennial trail. I was instantly jealous, but knew that I would be back soon to enjoy the tranquility of the Centennial Trail.

For a map or more information on the centennial trail visit: www.fs.fed.us/r2/blackhills

1 Comment

Filed under Hiking

Wilderness, Day 2

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence…protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions…”

                                                                -Wilderness Act of 1964 – Section 2(c)

Sunrise and sunset in the wilderness is an amazing thing. I could hear Peter up early to get the best sunrise shots possible. I needed my rest, and slept in for another hour. A little sore from the hike the day before, a stretching session was just what the doctor ordered. It was going to be unseasonably hot on day 2, and we had a heck of a climb ahead of us.

All ready for Day 2

All ready for Day 2

Hiking the remainder of Horse Thief #14 was downhill, and fortunately, in the shade. The sound of rushing water in the distance suggested the trails convergence into that of Grizzly Bear Creek Trail #7.

Late season snowfall and recent rains had filled all of the lakes and streams in the Black Hills. Our early concerns for lack of water were put to rest when we made it down to the creek. It was flowing very well, and had given us all an opportunity to fill our water supply and cool off from an already hot morning in the Black Elk.  A variety of interesting plant species were also growing in the valley.  Sunrise photos turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.

Not sure what it is, but it looks cool

Not sure what it is, but it looks cool

Sunrise Fungi

Sunrise Fungi

Grizzly Bear Creek

Grizzly Bear Creek

The Grizzly Bear Creek trail up to the Norbeck Trail was one of the most beautiful hikes on the trip. We followed Grizzly Bear Creek most of the way, with other creeks scattered throughout. 

As we climbed in elevation, the creeks grew scarce.  The heat intensified and switchback became commonplace…the final test as we inched closer to our goal.  As we climbed, the severity of the pine beetle infestation was put into perspective.  Dead or fallen trees littered the trail and surrounding hills.  The beauty of the area was not necessarily hindered by the dead trees, but it did prompt some worry about the future of this delicate ecosystem and how the elements and outside species can have such a dramatic impact. 

Fallen trees along the trail

Fallen trees along the trail

After reaching the Norbeck Trail #3, we quickly found and set up camp among the dead pine trees.  Joey had again found a fantastic spot while Peter and I ran for water at a nearby spring.  A well deserved nap on a bed of fallen pine needles was next on the agenda before we went to the summit. 

Finally the time had come to  march up to the top of Harney Peak.  7,240 feet above see level and the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains.  Below are photos from the top.  Enjoy. 

Photo from the lookout tower

Photo from the lookout tower

Almost to the top!

Almost to the top!

Black Hills from Harney

Black Hills from Harney

Does it get any better?

Does it get any better?

The rest of the trip was left open for gallivanting around the Black Hills.  We explored, we relaxed and we enjoyed the outdoors in the Beautiful Black Elk Wilderness.  Whether your into hiking, getting outside, spirituality or conservation, the Black Elk Wilderness has a trail that would fit the bill.  Chalk it up for another amazing outdoor experience in South Dakota! 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Hiking

Day 1 into the Black Elk Wilderness

The sun glistened off the Formica in the trail.  Our anticipation and adrenaline made our packs feel almost weightless.  The beauty and serenity of the area around us was breathtaking.  We were embarking on a journey through the heart of the Black Elk Wilderness in South Dakota.  Our ultimate goal, to summit Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. 

It all started with an email from Julie Jones, our friend at the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau.  She had recently met world renowned hiker and outdoor enthusiast Peter Potterfieldat a travel show in Chicago.  He mentioned an upcoming project to feature hikes of North America, and expressed interested in the Black Hills and Badlands.  After a quick phone call, and months of planning, Peter was on his way to Rapid City, and ready to join myself and Joey Hockett on one of the greatest hikes imaginable. 

After picking up Peter from the Historic Alex Johnson Hotel, we traveled south to Custer State Park for an evening at the Custer State Game Lodge.  Recently revamped, the Game lodge now offers a large dining area with the same great cuisine that it is famous for.  Before or after a great hiking trip, this is the place to relax and unwind with friends.  After a good night sleep and a great breakfast, we were ready to head off into the wilderness. 

The trip to the trailhead was full of mixed emotions.  Joey was giddy, like a kid in a candy store.  If he were to die and go to heaven, this is probably were he would be.  Peter was preparing.  Like an all star forward before a big game, Peter was in this for the story and was ready for the experience ahead.  And I was in my usual place, questions running through my head.  Had I forgotten something?  (Of course I had forgotten the sunscreen)  Where would we camp the first night?  Would Peter get the shots he needs? 

The trailhead was quiet.  One vehicle with Minnesota license plates beat us to the punch.  We had guessed that we would be the only hikers on the trails that day.  Can’t always be right I guess.  Our adventure into the heart of the Black Elk Wilderness had begun. 

Black Elk Wilderness near Iron Creek Trailhead

Black Elk Wilderness near Iron Creek Trailhead

The Black Elk Wilderness makes up the center of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve.  Originally established by Congress on December 22 1980, the Wilderness encompassed around 10,000 acres.  It wasn’t until 2002 when a piece of legislation increased its size to 13,605 acres of pure wilderness area.  Nearly 50 miles of trails weave their way through the wilderness, almost all of which offer very intimate encounters with the Black Hills.  Harney Peak Trail #9 from Sylvan Lake is the most traveled route, and very popular in the spring and summer months. 

Our starting point was Iron Creek trailhead/horsecamp on the Centennial Trail.  Despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to delay the trip months prior, the trails were in great condition.  Now, all that stood between us and Harney Peak was a two day hike and spectacular scenery. 

Peter Potterfield Hike 057Our route was simple.  We would follow the Centennial Trail #89 north to Horse Thief Lake Trail #14.  We would follow that south where we met up with the Grizzly Bear Creek Trail #7.  We would then take this west where we would eventually meet up with the Norbeck Trail #3 which we would follow up to Harney and back down to the vehicle, completing a very scenic loop of the Wilderness.

Hiking through the pines in South Dakota

Hiking through the pines in South Dakota

The sun shined through the ponderosa pine trees as we ventured along the Centennial Trail on day one. 

Viewpoints, pristine streams and numerous photos opportunities filled the morning trek. 

Climb to the top of the granite spires along the trail.  You'll be happy you did.

Climb to the top of the granite spires along the trail. You'll be happy you did.

As we continued north, we began to wonder what type of view we would have of Mount Rushmore National Memorial from the trail.  Originally, we had planned on hiking the Blackberry trail up to the Memorial to look around, but time constraints

suggested otherwise, and made for an amazing experience. 

We continued to climb the Centennial as it meandered through the granite spires and pines of the rugged Black Hills.  Through the trees we could see an opening, off the trail about 100 ft.  We followed a rough trail to the end of a granite cliff where the faces of two past presidents looked right back at us.  Hoping for a better view of all four faces, Joey headed east.  While he didn’t find a view of all four presidents, what he did find was just as amazing. 

The Faces from the trail

The Faces from the trail

Joey scouting the next viewpoint

Joey scouting the next viewpoint admiring the Shrine to Democracy

Having the chance to see the Shrine to Democracy from a distance without the people, vehicles and commotion really added to the experience.  While standing on that granite spire in the middle of the Black Elk, it was just me and “the boys”, an amazing feeling of solitude and a great chance to reflect on the morning. 

Me and "The Boys"

Me and "The Boys"

What a view!

What a view!

After departing our amazing viewpoint we met up with the Horse Thief Trial.  This was one of my favorite portions of the hike.  The scenery and topography changed dramatically.  An amazing contrast to the first stretch of the Centennial.

Hiking the Horse Thief Trail

Hiking the Horse Thief Trail

 Peter and I backtracked for water, while Joey continued up the trail another ½ mile to find a campsite with a view like no other. 

Day 1 camp

Day 1 camp

View from our Day 1 camp

View from our Day 1 camp

Day one ended with great conversation over a hot meal.  We were all still excited about the view of Mount Rushmore and the campsite that provided for amazing shots of the Black Elk.  Sometimes things just work out, and day one had just been one of those days that I will remember for years to come.  Here are a few more photos that ended off the day.  And this trip only got better… 

More from the Horse Thief Trail.  Look closely and you'll see Joey hiking the trail.

More from the Horse Thief Trail. Look closely and you'll see Joey hiking the trail.

The sky always seems bluer in the Black Hills

The sky always seems bluer in the Black Hills

Sun setting on the Black Elk

Sun setting on the Black Elk

Our ultimate goal from a distance.

Our ultimate goal from a distance.

Day 2 later this week.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hiking

Preparing for the Black Elk Wilderness

Today, we’ll be embarking on an adventure that you can only experience in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Hiking into the Black Elk Wilderness area can be an amazing experience, if you are prepared.  Here are a few tips on how to prepare yourself for a trip to the wilderness area. 

Things to Bring:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag – 0 –25 degree would suffice
  • Pack
  • Clothing
    • Under armor/long underwear
    • Hiking pants/shorts
    • Socks for each day
    • Shirt for each day’s hike (long and short sleeved)
    • Hiking boots – broken in and waterproofed
    • Light jacket/rain gear
    • Hat/stocking cap
  • Cook stove with extra fuel bottle
  • Pans/utensils
  • Lighters
  • Rope
  • Water container
  • Water treatment kit
  • Zip lock bags (for packing out waste and repackaging food)
  • Sun Glasses
  • Sun Screen/Bug repellent
  • Toilet paper/toilettries
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Camera
  • Maps/Compass
  • Multi-tool

Things to Remember:  Above all, Leave no Trace!

  • This is a wilderness area and has specific rules and regulations.  Please follow them!
  • Plan ahead and prepare.  Make a list, and check it off as you pack it to ensure you don’t forget a necessity
  • The weather is unpredictable in South Dakota.  Pack accordingly
  • June-August are peak travel months in South Dakota.  To see fewer people on the trails, plan your hike during the “off season”.  
  • Repackage food to minimize waste
  • Try not to use rock cairn or marking paint on the trail if possible.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail
  • Keep campsites small and camp where there is no vegetation.
  • Leave what you find.  Respect the wilderness area.
  • No Campfires allowed in the Wilderness.  Plan accordingly
  • Respect the Wildlife.  Do not attempt to approach or feed.
  • Be courteous to others on the trails. 
  • Call ahead for more information about the area or to check on the trail conditions. 
    • Hell Canyon Ranger District
      Custer, SD
      Phone:  605-673-4853

Links

2 Comments

Filed under Hiking