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

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


3. Be Respectful to Wildlife


Bison in Badlands National Park

They didn’t invite you to 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 that 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

Go prepared to any hike. Make sure to pack plenty of water, 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. Lastly, if you are adventuring 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
Hiking etiquette is a real thing, and if you're exploring a popular path you will encounter other groups of hikers. Prefer to take it slow? Move to the side 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 to the trail edges if you need to take a break. If you’re descending a steep trail, always move to the side when meeting hikers that are ascending. 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


prayer ties on a the summit tree at bear butte state park in south dakota
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 a highlight for many that visit Rapid City. Help us make sure its beautiful for generations to come by doing your part and remember to always leave no trace.


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