The Black Hills of South Dakota are many things to many people: Sacred land, development opportunity, tourist destination, vacation home … the list goes on. The region is so much more than Black Hills Gold slider necklaces, as fabulous as they are. Perhaps the best way to learn about this often overlooked and underrated region is to hike one of its many forest trails. Here are some of the best Black Hills hiking trails, organized from north to south.
1. Crow Peak Trail
Crow Peak is a 5,760-foot tall sugarloaf mountain located just west of the Northern Hills town of Spearfish. The seven-mile trail makes for a strenuous hike, but if you make the trek, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of other Black Hills landmarks, including Lookout Mountain and Bear Butte, as well as the prairies of South Dakota and Wyoming.
2. Spearfish Falls/Roughlock Falls
About 15 to 20 miles southeast of Crow Peak is Spearfish Canyon. It is home to at least three waterfalls, two of which are close enough to one another that you can hike from one to the other easily. Spearfish Falls is larger, but Roughlock Falls is better known. The distance from Roughlock to Spearfish Falls is approximately three miles, and it is a fairly easy stroll along the canyon floor. Try to plan your trip for September or October when the fall foliage is at its peak.
3. Horsethief Lake Trail
Of course, a visit to Mount Rushmore in the Southern Hills is obligatory on any Black Hills trip. Horsethief Lake is west of Mount Rushmore on Highway 244. The 3.5-mile hiking trail is located behind it and takes you through the granite spires characteristic of this unique area of the state.
4. Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak is the tallest point in the state of South Dakota. The eight miles to the 7,242-foot summit is a challenging hike but well worth the effort for the multi-state panoramic views.
Keep in mind that some Black Hills hiking trails are in areas of particular cultural significance to the Lakota people. Always be respectful of this on your journey.