The Great Outdoors
The Black Hills offers inspiring outdoor experiences for both the quietly contemplative and the wildly adventuresome. Here are some of the best:
Survival of the Fittest
Take the Wild Cave Tour at Wind Cave National Park: This four-hour tour will have you crawling through narrow passages as you learn the basics of safe caving and see the deeper sections of one of the longest caves in the world. Hard hats, kneepads, and lights are provided by the park. Heavy gloves and study boots are required, and old clothes are recommended.
Go rock climbing in Custer State Park: Call Sylvan Rocks Climbing School & Guide Service and have the adventure of your life. Learn to climb in the Needles of Custer State Park or take the best routes with the most knowledgeable climbers in the hills.
Bike the Mickelson Trail: The Mickelson Trail offers over 100 miles of Rails-to-Trails riding from Edgemont to Deadwood. There are several companies that will shuttle you to and from any trailhead along the way.
Backpack the Sage Creek Wilderness Area: Bring plenty of water and sunscreen and spend a few days in the remote and otherworldly Badlands National Park. Camping is free but facilities are primitive.
Hike the Centennial Trail: This 111-mile trail highlights the diversity of the Black Hills and runs from Bear Butte in the north through Wind Cave National Park in the south. (Many, but not all, sections of the trail are bike accessible as well.)
Run the Lean Horse Marathon: Come to the hills in late August and test your endurance. Originating in Hot Springs, this 100-mile, half-hundred, or 50K race skirts Fall River in Hot Springs and then heads out to the Mickelson Trail. Experience the exhilaration of accomplishment and, after you recover, enjoy a runner’s high for months.
The Quiet Places
Balloon the Black Hills: Drift over Custer State Park in the open-air basket of a colorful balloon. Bring a new perspective to your sightseeing as you view herds of bison and pronghorns roaming the park from a bird’s-eye view.
Go fly-fishing: Get out of the car and take some time to fish Spearfish Canyon or Rapid Creek south of Pactola Reservoir. You can rent equipment and explore on your own, or take a guided tour. Streams are stocked with brown, rainbow, and brook trout.
Golf: Play the Southern Hills Municipal Golf Course just west of Hot Springs. There are stunning views from every tee of the award-winning front nine.
Hike up Crow Peak: Just south of Spearfish, a hike to the top of Crow Peak will reward you with a gorgeous 360-degree view of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.
Kayak, canoe, or pontoon: Get away from the crowds at one of the most remote lakes in the hills. Check out Angostura Recreation Area in the south, or rent a pontoon boat on Pactola Reservoir in the Central Hills and dive into the water when the sun gets too warm.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition