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Hiking

Hiking in Rapid City and the Black Hills

Ponderosa Pine forests, granite crags and an abundance of wide-open spaces make hiking in the Rapid City a favorite activity among visitors and locals alike. Hikes in and around the city range in length and intensity. You’ll also find a variety of both nature walks and hiking trials in the surrounding Black Hills National Forest. Since the temperatures can fluctuate as you climb, be sure to layer your clothing and pack plenty of water so you can enjoy the view.

DAY HIKING TRAILS IN RAPID CITY

Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park Trail Network - View Trail Map

Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park, formerly M Hill or Cowboy Hill, is the closest thing to being in the Hills, while still being in Rapid City. With over 18 miles of developed trails, the Park has many trails that fork off of just one. 

  • Trail Level: Easy to Moderate

  • Trail Length: 9.62 Miles 

  • Trail Type: Many Options 

Skyline Drive - View Trail Map

Nice hiking trail less than a mile from downtown. There are many spurs to this trail as it winds through a fairly small overall area. Trail development continues. 

  • Trail Length: 3-6 Miles 

  • Trail Level: Moderate to Strenuous

DAY HIKING IN THE BLACK HILLS

NORTHERN HILLS

Bear Butte State Park Trails - View Trail Map

Rising 1,200 feet above the plains, Bear Butte stands as a landmark, pointing the way for many early day “hikers,” trudging across the prairie in search of wild game, gold, furs, or homesteads in the Black Hills. In actuality, Bear Butte is the remains of a volcano that did not erupt. Geologists call it a laccolith. Legend says that Bear Butte received its name, Mato Paha (Sioux), because from a distance it looks like a sleeping bear. Bear Butte is the northern terminus for the Centennial Trail, which courses more than 100 miles through the Black Hills. 

The Lake Trail (2.5 miles) circles Bear Butte Lake adjacent to the campground. This trail is considered easy. 

The Summit Trail (1.85 mi) is a Registered National Trail. A trek from the base to the peak of the sacred mountain, the trail winds through a pine forest; many tree branches are draped with prayer flags and ceremonial objects. The summit offers a grand view of the Black Hills and Sturgis and the vastness of the plains to the east. 

  • Skill Level: Moderately Strenuous to Strenuous

  • Length: 3.7 Miles (Loop), 2 to 3 hours

  • Duration: 2 to 3 Hours 

Crow Peak Trail #64 - View Trail Map

This trail provides excellent panoramic views, making it a popular hike. The trail winds up to the mountain’s top, providing sweeping vistas at the summit. Crow Peak is so named because of a battle once fought here between the Crow and Sioux Indians. Appropriately, the mountain in Sioux tongue, Paha Karitukateyapi, translates to “the place where the Sioux killed the Crow.” Crow Peak is an igneous intrusion and was formed in the same manner as Bear Butte and several other peaks in the area. Eons ago molten magma filled limestone and sedimentary layers, which then cooled to form the hard igneous rock. Erosion and washing away of sedimentary deposits continues to re-form the hills in the area. 

  • Skill Level: Moderately Strenuous to Strenuous

  • Length: 3.2 Miles (one-way) with .5 Mile spur trail to Beaver Ridge 

CENTRAL HILLS

Flume Trail - Spring Creek Loop Trail - View Trail Map

The trail winds through woods on a ridge above Spring Creek and can be hiked on its own or as part of the Flume Trail. 

  • Skill Level: Easy and Flat

  • Length: 3 Miles, 2 to 4 hours

Iron Mountain Loop Trail (Black Elk Wilderness) - View Trail Map

A loop hike in the Black Elk Wilderness area. The trail goes from mountaintop to forest floor while threading over streams, into small valleys flanked by rock formations, and through park-like settings cut by beaver dams, providing glimpses of many facets of the Black Hills. In the fall, the leaf colors intermingle with the dark green of the ponderosa pines, lending even more drama to the igneous rock. The hike is easy to moderate, taking up to four hours, and provides a peaceful, beautiful trek. 

  • Skill Level: Easy to Moderate

  • Length: 5.1 Miles, 4 hours 

Willow Creek Loop Trail - View Trail Map

An easy loop trail with periodic vistas of Harney Peak. Willow Creek Loop Trail provides vistas of Harney Peak, a bird’s-eye view of the spires of Elkhorn Mountain, and a stroll through stands of some of the Black Hills’ largest ponderosa pines. 

  • Skill Level: Moderate

  • Length: 2.8 Miles, 1.5 to 2 Hours

Mount Rushmore Area

One of the best kept secrets of the Black Hills is the half-mile hike along the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The Presidential Trail is an accessible, easy hike that gives you up close views of the four granite faces.

  • Skill Level: Easy

  • Length: 0.5 Miles, up to 1 Hour

CUSTER STATE PARK

Badger Clark Historic Trail - View Trail Map

A walk back in history, great for the whole family, to visit the historic cabin of the first poet laureate of South Dakota. The area was once home to poet Badger Clark (1883–1957), best known for his poem “Cowboy’s Prayer." Clark lived alone for thirty years in this pristine setting, inspired by nature’s bounty. He first built a one-room cabin, where he lived for ten years while building a slightly larger cabin just up the hill. The trail winds through a mixed pine and hardwood forest and along rocky hillsides - a portion of the rock-lined trail was built by the poet himself. Interpretive signs along the trail further explain the trail system. 

  • Skill Level: Moderately Easy

  • Length: 1 Mile, 1 to 2 hours

Creekside Trail - View Trail Map

This hard-surfaced trail in Custer State Park follows Grace Coolidge Creek and passes the State Game Lodge, Peter Norbeck Visitor Center, Coolidge General Store and the park office. Several bridge crossings are bike and rollerblade friendly. The trail is fairly level except for a section near the park office where bicyclists should walk their bikes. This trail is wheelchair accessible, easily walked, and safe for energetic children. 

  • Skill Level: Easy  

  • Length: 2 Miles (one-way), 1 to 2 hours

French Creek Natural Area Trail - View Trail Map

This trip in its entirety is long (12 miles), and many trekkers often camp for one night. Therefore, we suggest making this a trip of only 1.5 miles one-way. The trail is marked from the east and west terminuses for this length; after that, hikers must make their own way through the 2,200 acre Natural area. The trip travels along a gorge of unique rock formations, intersected by many stream crossings. French Creek exposes layers of ancient rock in colorful canyons. Near here one of Lt. Col. George Custer’s men discovered gold in 1874. Fishing here (South Dakota fishing license required) is good for brown and rainbow trout. Poison ivy is abundant all along the trail. Wildlife and wildflowers are abundant here, as well as an amazing geological phenomenon. Near the east end of the trail, the waters of French Creek disappear for several hundred yards, providing an excellent example of “sinkhole” topography. Primitive, overnight camping is allowed along the trail. Open fires are prohibited in the area. 

  • Skill Level: Moderate

  • Length: 12 Miles (one-way), 2 hours

Grace Coolidge Walk-in Fishing Area Trail - View Trail Map

A beautiful, fairly flat walk terminating or beginning at Center Lake or Grace Coolidge Campground that parallels (with many crossings) Grace Coolidge Creek. The Grace Coolidge Walk-in Fishing Area trail is actually an old, overgrown logging road. It is an easy and refreshing hike, and the numerous crossings over the narrow, sometimes deep, creek add to the fun. Six low-head dams exist along the way, some with deep dark pools lying beneath granite rock formations. Walking this trail is a fun outing for the entire family. In the summer the trail is alive with the vibrant colors of wildflowers; in the fall the bur oak and birch tree leaves add a startling go.

  • Skill level: Easy

  • Length: 2 Miles