by Pat Wiederhold
The great thing about the Black Hills is that most of the hiking is very accessible and there is a lot of it. I am sure that this list will be different for just about everybody, but these are the ones I enjoy the most. Keep in mind, I live in Hill City so my list is dominated by hikes in the Southern Black Hills.
5. BLACK ELK PEAK
This is easily the most popular hike in the Black Hills. Starting at Sylvan Lake, this up and back to the lookout tower is a must do if you have never hiked here. This 6.5-mile round tripper is well marked and on a clear day offers incredible views.
My Favorite Part – Views from the tower
What I Don’t Like – Lots of people in peak season for a Black Hills hike
4. FLUME TRAIL
This is a 13-mile hike from Rockerville to Sheridan Lake. However, I normally hike it from Sheridan Lake to the 2nd tunnel and turn around, which is about 5 miles. It has great views of Sheridan Lake and Spring Creek and I think the old tunnels are a cool piece of history.
My Favorite Part - It offers a different kind of scenery than a lot of the hikes by or in Custer State Park
What I Don’t Like – The turn to the right by the Dam is not well marked and I ended up on a different trail the first time I hiked it.
3. SUNDAY GULCH
A 4-mile loop from the parking lot of the Sylvan Lake store. This hike has a fair amount of elevation for a relatively short hike. However, the stream trickling down thru the massive granite spires makes for some incredible scenery.
My Favorite Part – I like checking out the ice flows in early spring
What I Don’t Like – A portion of the loop is close to the highway and the traffic noise can be annoying
2. HORSE THIEF LAKE LOOP
A 4.5-mile loop starting at the Horse Thief Lake trail head. This loop includes a portion of the Centennial Trail as well. Essentially, take a right every time you see a trail (don’t hike the path down the creek half way thru as this is supposed to be closed) and you will end up at the highway across from the Big Pine Trail Head. I walk down the highway 200 yards and cruise thru the campground back to my vehicle. This hike includes small streams, massive granite, and beautiful sections of aspen.
My Favorite Part – The first ¾ mile of this hike is some of my favorite scenery in the Black Hills.
What I Don’t Like – Walking along the highway and thru the campground to finish
1. LITTLE DEVIL’S TOWER
A 3-mile out and back from the trail head just south of Sylvan Lake on the Needles Highway. This is a great hike with amazing Custer State Park views. It’s a great alternative to Black Elk Peak if you don’t have the time or energy and has a fraction of the people on it in the peak season. It is not uncommon to see Mule Deer and Rocky Mountain Goats on this hike as well. It has about 900 foot of elevation gain in a short distance so give yourself a little extra time.
My Favorite Part – The views of the Cathedral Spires are awesome
What I don’t like – I wish it was a little longer. The rock scramble to the top takes some people out of their comfort zone.
As I said earlier, everyone will probably have a different list as we are fortunate enough to have lots of great hiking options in the Black Hills. However, I hope this inspires you to go out and create your own top 5.