Sunday, July 17, 2011

Boulder Hill

A view from the top looking toward Harney Peak and the Needles
 Boulder Hill is a 5331 foot peak west of Rockerville between Highway 16 and Sheridan Lake Rd.

The trail is two miles round trip and will take between 20 and 30 minutes (not including time to take in the views!) to hike and is strenuous. The trail to Boulder Hill is rough and rocky and ascends 400 vertical feet until you get to the top of the peak where there is a foundation for an old fire watch tower. Once at the top, the peak offers 360° views of the Black Hills and Badlands.

To get to the trail head, drive west of Rapid City on either Highway 16 or Sheridan Lake Rd. From Highway 16, turn on Silver Mountain Rd and then turn onto Boulder Hill Rd and drive roughly a mile and a half to the trail head. From Sheridan Lake Rd, turn directly on Boulder Hill Rd and drive about three miles. The trail isn't marked very well but it looks like a rocky, dirt four wheeling trail that goes uphill to the east of Boulder Hill Rd. I have included a location link on Google Maps below…

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stratobowl Rim Trail

The Stratobowl Rim Trail is a very easy trail just east of Rockerville on Highway 16. Beginning at the highway, this trail winds through dense pine forest and eventually ends at an overlook with plaques and monoliths. The majority of the trail is used as a maintenance road so it is wide and fairly well maintained.

Gate at trailhead
The trailhead is located about two miles west of Bear Country on Highway 16 south of Rapid City. After Bear Country there is a gas station. Take an immediate right after the gas station to turn into the trailhead parking lot. Here you will find a tiny parking area and a gate across the road. While hiking through the forest the views are of trees but you will be rewarded at the end of the mile long hike when you are on top of the east rim of the bowl. Other than the views, there is a plaque and a memorial giving the history of the area and great information about what flew out of the  Stratobowl back in the 1930's and 1950's. At the overlook there are also a few choices for other short trails.

One thing I found odd is that the big stone monoliths with the history of the Stratobowl are encased in a chain link fence. I assume the fence is to prevent vandalism, but it looses it's aesthetic appeal and turns into an eyesore…

Monday, July 4, 2011

Upper Spring Creek

Upper Spring Creek is a trail head off of Sheridan Lake Road below the dam at Sheridan Lake. It is a section of the 111 mile long Centennial Trail and also leads to the Flume Trail. Although very short, this is a favorite place of mine to go for a hike or trail run, especially on a hot summer day.

Starting almost at Sheridan Lake Road, this section of the Centennial Trail meanders slightly uphill following Spring Creek until the dam at Sheridan Lake just over a mile away. Once at the dam there are many options of where to go next. You can keep going on the Centennial Trail towards Dakota Point or take a short trail to the Flume Trail or just turn around and head back. On those hot, sunny days, it's always fun to do a little swimming and cliff jumping into the lake to cool off.

While on the trail, the scenery is amazing with the creek wandering through the valley and between the rock walls. The trail varies between a narrow single track and a wide, rocky path. Along the way there are three creek crossings which have recently been given bridges, but you can still walk through the water if you choose! Another great thing about this area is the fishing in the creek. The trout are abundant and waiting… In the summer months, beware of poison ivy and mosquitoes.

The Upper Spring Creek Trail Head is about two miles east of Highway 385 or nine miles west of Red Rocks Golf Course/Corner Pantry. Look for the trailhead sign on Sheridan Lake Road and follow the road about half a mile to the trail head parking lot.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Little Fug

There are probably many names for this trail, but this is the name that was introduced to me back in college when I first hiked it. This is a very little known hike near Horse Thief Lake just down Highway 244 from Mt Rushmore NM and it offers amazing views of the Black Hills. This is a short but very difficult hike because it requires some class 4 climbing.
Looking SE towards Mt Rushmore

Coming from Horse Thief Lake take the first left onto a gated road. This is a good parking area for a car or two, just make sure not to block the road behind the gate. To find the beginning of the trail, walk back down the shoulder of the road and the trail begins in the ditch just past a rock wall to the left.

The first half mile is a short uphill walk through the woods twisting and turning until it dead ends at a granite wall. Here is where things get tricky, the last couple hundred feet of trail are mostly vertical. After weaving your way up the rocks and avoiding poison ivy, the peak is easily accessible and shows the amazing 360° views of the surrounding hills.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Buzzard’s Roost

Buzzard's Roost Trail Head
After years of work, the Buzzard's Roost trail system is open for use. Located only five miles west of Rapid City, these trails are easily accessible and aimed for the casual walker to extreme mountain biker. With ten miles of trails there is sure to be one for everybody. There are viewpoints scattered along the way and if you're lucky, you'll have a bench to sit on while taking in the view.

The trail head is located just a few minutes past Falling Rock on Highway 44 west of Rapid City with a gravel parking lot to the south side of the road and an informational kiosk. Several trails begin right at the gate and all eventually end up at the main lookout. All of the trails wind their way uphill through the pine forest on single track trails.

 The Buzzard's Roost trail system is for non-motorized use only and are all covered with loose rocks. Some tend to be more of a gentle grade while others are very steep with large drop offs. Make sure to take in the view but you may want to stop in order to do it. Once at the lookout, there are panoramic views of the Black Hills in almost every direction. A sign in log book is at the 4700' peak, so make sure to sign in and see what others have written about their experiences.

The Rapid City Journal did an article on Buzzard's Roost a week ago giving a history on the area. Another good site with write ups on each individual trail has been done by It's a good source and I would recommend checking it out before heading out to the trail. Watch out for poison ivy too. In many areas the trail is surrounded by the three leaved green plant. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Harney Peak

Harney Peak is a must do hike for everyone, even if you don't consider yourself a hiker. The most popular trail head begins at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park (Trail 9) and slowly climbs up to the 7242 foot peak where you'll find an old, abandoned fire lookout tower with a view of multiple states, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. Harney Peak is also the tallest peak east of the Rocky Mountains.

Beginning at the east side of Sylvan Lake, trail 9 slowly climbs through the surrounding pine forest. About a mile in you'll enter the Black Elk Wilderness where there is a registration station (don't worry, it's free) to get a pass for the wilderness area. Although the hike is to the top of a peak, there are ups and downs, creek crossings, and multiple trail intersections along with amazing views of the Black Hills and surrounding areas. Once at the top, there is the old fire tower and a dam with pump station plus plenty of granite to wander around on taking in the views and chasing the chipmunks and mountain goats.

The trail is 3 miles, 6 miles round trip, and can take up to five hours depending on your physical condition. It is considered to be moderately strenuous because of the grade and all of the rock outcrops and tree roots. The only fee to do this hike is for Custer State Park. Either a seven day pass or a one year pass are available. Unfortunately, camping isn't allowed at the summit…