It’s important to remember that nature isn’t just there for our enjoyment. Treat it with respect by being a responsible hiker so we can continue to take in its wonders for years to come! Here are some rules to follow to be mindful of your surroundings, while also ensuring your own safety.

1. Pack in Pack Out

Family hiking during the fall season in spearfish canyon in south dakota
Spearfish Canyon

Whatever you bring on your hike with you, should also leave with you and be disposed of properly. Leave no trace from your explorations and make sure the trail is as you found it, or better! If you find any trash or items that don't belong along the way do nature a kindness and pick it up.

2. Stick to the Trail

Family hiking the trails of skyline wilderness area in rapid city south dakota
Skyline Wilderness Area

The trails are there for a reason. They help you know the way and protect surrounding vegetation from getting damaged with too much traffic. It's also safer to stay on the designated path. The Black Hills are home to so many beautiful things but also things you most likely want to avoid, like poison ivy.

3. Be Respectful to Wildlife

Bison in Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park @greentartworks

They didn’t ask you into their home, so keep a safe distance. I know it can be exciting to see some of the area’s wildlife up close, but it’s important to remember they are wild and unpredictable. Not to mention a lot of them have horns and are extremely fast. It's recommended to keep at least a 25 yard distant from wild animals. You don't need to feed wildlife either, their homes provide all the snacks they need so you can save those cheesey chips for yourself. 

4. Be Prepared

Notch trail sign in badlands national park in south dakota
Badlands National Park @edwardlee1970

Go prepared to any hike. Make sure to pack plenty of water, some snacks, dress appropriately for the hike, and bring a first aid kit. Being prepared also means to plan ahead. Always check the weather (in the area you are hiking) before heading out to make sure clear skies are in the forecast and dress accordingly for the weather. Lastly, if you are going out alone, always make sure to let someone know where and when you are going.

5. Respect Other Hikers

Hikers enjoying the scenic overlook of rapid city from the trails of skyline wilderness area
Skyline Wilderness Area

Hiking etiquette is a real thing. If you are on a popular path you will encounter other hikers. Prefer to take it slow? Make sure to move over and let others go around you so you’re not holding anyone up. Keep noise levels to a minimum so you don’t disrupt the experience for others and always move over to the trail edges if you need to take a break. If you’re descending a steep trail and meet hikers coming the opposite direction always move to the side. It takes a lot more energy to go up than it does to go down, so it’s polite to give them the right of way.

6. Respect Sacred Places

sunset over the jagged rock formations of Bear Butte State Park in South Dakota
Bear Butte State Park ©Shonna Mueller

There are many hiking locations in the Black Hills that are sacred to American Indian tribes such as Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and Bear Butte State Park. Please be respectful of any worshippers and their religious practices. Prayer cloths, which are small bundles of fabric tied to trees, are commonly found hiking in these locations and we ask you to not disturb them. 

The beauty and proximity of the Black Hills has always been one of my favorite things about living in Rapid City. I love hitting the trails whenever possible and recommending hiking trails to visitors, but it’s extremely important for everyone to remember – always leave no trace.