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Step Into A New Black Hills Adventure This Winter

Raised in Rapid City and lucky to call it home, this outdoor enthusiast loves to explore the Black Hills with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not at work you’ll find her out hiking, at a local ice cream shop, or perhaps home taking a nap.

December 01, 2021

Forget Cinderella’s glass slipper, welcome a new adventure by sliding your foot into a snowshoe this winter in the Black Hills. This easy and inexpensive activity is fun for all ages and leads you straight into hidden winter wonders. With a variety of trails to explore in the area, snowshoeing is a great way to stay active while also appreciating the beauty and stillness winter brings.  

Snowshoeing with dogs in the black hills of south dakota
Black Hills National Forest


I have been an avid hiker most of my life but was new to snowshoeing until a few years ago. For as strange as it sounds, the transition from hiking boot to large snowshoe was pretty seamless. Apart from the occasional complication with my dog stepping on them, walking in snowshoes is significantly easier than most would think. 

EQUIPMENT

Snowshoe gear out on the trail in the black hills
Black Hills National Forest


If you are new to the activity or don’t have room to pack your own there are plenty of locations where you can rent snowshoes. A few of the area state parks and nature areas like Custer State Park, George S. Mickelson Trail and the Spearfish Canyon Nature Area check out snowshoes. Some locations even host guided snowshoe tours throughout the winter. In Rapid City, Outdoor Campus West offers snowshoe checkouts and trails right on site for you to take them for a spin.

It’s important to wear layers when snowshoeing in the Black Hills. Rapid City temperatures can differ from those in the hills so make sure you are prepared for cooler or possibly even warmer weather. With layers you can add or remove as necessary. While snowshoes can adjust to almost any type of boot, you’ll want to make sure you are wearing some that fit comfortably and keep your feet dry. Wool or synthetic socks are also important to wear while snowshoeing. Other recommended items to have include hiking poles with snow baskets, sunglasses, and a warm hat and gloves. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, even if the weather is cooler, you’ll still work up a thirst. 

TRAILS

snowshoeing trail in the black hills of south dakota
Black Hills National Forest

 

Great snowshoeing trails can be found all throughout the Black Hills, and each one is an easy drive from Rapid City. Before heading out on your adventure, make sure the trail you are exploring isn’t groomed for cross country skiing. The prints left by snowshoes ruin the trail for skiers. Here are a few I recommend trying out!

Eagle Cliff Trailheads

Located in the Northern Hills – Spearfish area, the trail system of Eagle Cliff provides options for your outdoor adventure. With twenty-one looping and dead-end trails you can explore for hours at this one location. Trail range and difficulty vary depending on the route you take, plus a large portion of the trail system is groomed for cross country skiers only. This map will help you determine where to explore! 

Deerfield Lake Loop Trailheads

Located in the Central Hills is the Deerfield Lake Loop Trailheads. This trail system is great to explore if you are brand new to snowshoeing. Enjoy views of Deerfield Lake from Reynolds Prairie as you encircle the lake, other portions of the trail will weave through ponderosa pines and peaceful meadows. There are four trailheads that lead to this trail so make sure you know which point you want to start and end on before heading out!

Big Hill Trailhead

Also located in the Northern Hills – Spearfish area, is the Big Hill Trail System. This area has a trail designated just to snowshoeing you can find on this map and trails will be clearly marked when you arrive. On this trail you’ll march right into the beauty of the hills which is, in my opinion, accentuated in the winter season.

George Mickelson Trail

The George Mickelson Trail is a popular trail to explore for locals and visitors during the summer and fall, a trend that continues for many into the winter. You can sign out snowshoes from the trail office located in Lead before heading out to the trailhead you want to start from. You can’t go wrong with any starting point as this trail cuts through some breathtaking portions of the forest that truly shine when covered in a blanket of snow.  

It’s a beautiful time of the year to soak up outdoor adventures in our area. Don’t let snowshoeing be your only winter activity in the hills! Other popular ways to enjoy time outside include ice skating, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, ice fishing, and even ice climbing.