The Top Outdoor Adventure Spots In Rapid City

An Illinois native, Wade made his first trip to the Black Hills during his honeymoon in 2015. That first visit was all that it took to get him hooked, and he's happy to be a permanent resident of the hills now. You can find him most often on the trail with his wife Clarissa and their dog Inkling. Wade runs, a website devoted to helping people lead more adventurous lives exploring the world of outdoor recreation!

February 02, 2023

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

drone shot of frost covering skyline wilderness area and skyline drive in rapid city, south dakota
Skyline Wilderness Area

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. 

Hiking on the Skyline Wilderness Area Trails
Skyline Wilderness Area

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 spend some time outside. And do you know what I found surprisingly enjoyable? Hiking to Dinosaur Park. Is it a bit touristy? Sure. A little silly? Absolutely. 

*Dinosaur Park is currently closed for construction to create accessible pedestrian routes, update safety features, and upgrade visitor amenities including site interpretation. Trail access to the park will reopen in May 2023. 

Standing next to the Dinosaur at Dinosaur Park

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 from the 1930s, when an opportunity comes along to enjoy a day hike and check out some dinos, please count me in. 

Hiker and dog exploring the Nature of Skyline Wilderness Area trials in rapid city during the winter
Skyline Wilderness Area

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 this warm, sunny winters day.

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.

Family Hiking At Hanson-Larson Memorial Park
Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park

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 route 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. 

Snowy Views From M Hill in Rapid City, south dakota
Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park

We didn’t climb that day, but our good friend showed us this route, 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. 

Dog Enjoying a Hike At Hanson-Larsen in Rapid City
Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park

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.

An added bonus of exploring these trail systems - being steps away from a celebratory beverage or refreshing meal. 

Bartender pouring a beer from the Dakota Point Brewing taps in Rapid City, South Dakota
Dakota Point Brewing

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!