The Top Outdoor Adventure Spots In Rapid City
When I did an Instagram takeover for Visit Rapid City earlier this year, I had plenty of ideas about places to explore. If you’ve spent any time in the area, then you know how easy it is to find tons of amazing trails, public land, and awesome spots with just a short drive. But what I didn’t realize was that I could find great hiking without ever leaving Rapid City. That’s when I learned about — and explored — the Skyline Wilderness Area and Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park.
Skyline Wilderness Area encompasses 150 acres and has trails open to hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. Despite its positioning right in Rapid City, exploring Skyline feels more remote than it is. The area, an undeveloped urban wilderness, has a wonderful duality to it — during our hikes here, we found it easy to forget that we were within the city limits, yet we still enjoyed awesome views of west Rapid City from Stonewall Overlook.
While this wasn’t the most challenging hiking I’ve done in the Black Hills, it was a great way to get some mileage in. And do you know what I found surprisingly enjoyable? Hiking to Dinosaur Park. Is it a bit touristy? Sure. A little silly? Absolutely.
But it was also a remarkably good time.
After all, I was ten when the first Jurassic Park movie came out, and who among us didn’t play with plastic dinosaurs as a kid? So while my hikes don’t usually involve dinosaur sculptures built in the 1930s, when an opportunity comes along to enjoy a day hike and check out some dinos, please count me in.
While Skyline doesn’t encompass a massive trail system, it has enough for an enjoyable walk, run, or bike ride — and we encountered people doing all three on the sunny and unseasonably warm day we hiked the area.
The day that we wandered through Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park didn’t have as charming of weather — wind and snow may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we still saw people riding, running, and walking their dogs. Like us, plenty of people will happily spend time outside, no matter what the weather has in store.
The park sits right near historic Downtown Rapid City — in fact, it includes Founder’s Park and the aptly named Founders Rock. The rock shares a face with a bouldering problem called Vegan. Why that name? Because of the meat-processing plant that used to operate there prior to flooding in the early 1970s. Now, it’s a spot where a lot of climbers get bouldering experience without ever leaving town.
We didn’t climb that day, but our good friend Eric showed us this problem, and a few others farther up the trail. We continued marching upward, several times rewarded with cool views of Rapid, until finally emerging above the “M” that highlights M Hill. Since my first visit to the Black Hills in 2015, and during every trip into Rapid City since moving to the area, I find myself looking up at the M. I didn’t even realize that we could hike to it, but I’m pretty happy to have done so.
Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park covers 300 acres and welcomes hikers, bikers, and runners with over 20 miles of trails, easily accessed from Founder’s Park, or on Thrush Drive off of West Boulevard.
Between Skyline Wilderness Area and Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park, there’s plenty of trail to keep you busy for awhile, without ever having to leave Rapid City. Keep in mind that even though these trails are in the city, we still need to treat them like wild places. That means no litter, picking up after our dogs, and avoiding riding and hiking when the paths are too muddy — it cuts trenches that increase erosion on and off the trail.
The Black Hills area is full of amazing places to explore, and I encourage residents and visitors alike to visit as many of them as possible — including these cool spots in Rapid City. Whether you live here or are just visiting, if you need a quick hike or trail run, or if you want to get your bike off of the pavement, the Skyline Wilderness Area and Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park are both close, accessible, and fun to explore.
I hope to see you out there!