Black Hills Hiking - Biking - Trail Information
The 111 mile Centennial Trail crosses the prairie grasslands near Bear Butte State Park and climbs into the Black Hills high country, skirting lakes and streams, Mount Rushmore National Monument, and winds through Custer State Park until it reaches Wind Cave National Park. Established in honor of South Dakota's 100th anniversary, the Centennial Trail is an excellent sightseeing route, but only for the experienced rider. Ranges from intermediate to Expert single track through a range of terrain. The United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks have combined their efforts to develop this trail.
Allowed Trail Uses
*Horse use on eastern portion of Bear Butte State Park is not allowed. A section of the Centennial Trail crosses the Black Elk Wilderness. Travel in the Black Elk Wilderness is limited to hiking and horses. No mountain bikes or motorized vehicles are allowed.
A Badger Clark Historic Trail: A short loop trail that winds behind the historic cabin of Charles Badger Clark (1883 / 1957), the first Poet Laureate of South Dakota.
Length: 1 mile loop Skill Level: Moderate Time: 1/2 - 1 Hour
B Prairie Trail: An easy interpretive loop hike through prairie grasslands and over open ridges which offer panoramic views of the vast prairie surrounding the Black Hills.
Length: 3 mile loop Skill Level: Moderate Time: 2 - 3 Hours
C Sunday Gulch Trail: An interpretive trail that loops behind Sylvan Lake and offers some of the park's most unique scenery. Several stream crossings while passing over large boulders.
Length: 2.8 mile loop Skill Level: Moderate - Strenuous Time: 2 - 3 Hours
D Sylvan Lake Shore Trail: An easy loop trail around Sylvan Lake, one of the most picturesque lakes in the Black Hills.
Length: 1 mile loop Skill Level: Easy Time: 1/2 - 1 Hour
E Lover's Leap Hiking Trail: Named for the legend of two Native American lovers who leapt to their deaths from the rocky outcropping at its highest point. Trail starts with steep ascent and then drops into Galena Creek Drainage. Some creek crossings are challenging even when water is low.
Length: 3 mile loop Skill Level: Strenuous Time: 2 -3 Hours
F Stockade Lake Hiking Trail: Lake loop trail with views of Harney Peak and surrounding area.
Length: 1.5 mile loop Skill Level: Moderate Time: 1 - 2 Hours
G French Creek Natural Area: Hikers follow French Creek as it meanders into the French Creek gorge, wet feet are almost assured as there are many stream crossings. Area is excellent for bird watching, has abundant wildflowers. and bighorn sheep are often seen.
Length: 12 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate Time: 6 - 10 Hours
H Grace Coolidge Walk In Fishing Area: A beautiful, fairly flat walk terminating at Center Lake, parallels Grace Coolidge Creek. Wet feet are almost assured as there are many stream crossings. Several ponds for excellent trout fishing.
Length: 3 miles one way Skill Level: Easy - Moderate Time: 2 - 3 Hours
Custer State Park portion of SD Centennial Trail (Hiking - Biking - Horseback Riding)
I Iron Creek Trailhead: Follows trail markers through gently rolling section of the park, several small stream crossings. Ends at The Badger Hole, home of South Dakota's first Poet Laureate, Badger Clark.
Length: 7.3 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate Time: 3 - 5 Hours
J Badger Hole Trailhead: Portions of the trail are very steep and rocky, also crosses French Creek several times before reaching French Creek Trailhead. This is the most strenuous section of the Centennial Trail within Custer State Park.
Length: 4.2 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate - Strenuous Time: 4 - 5 Hours
K French Creek Trailhead: This section of trail enters open grasslands that are home to large herds of bison. Bison can be dangerous any time of year, especially in spring. Trail passes through park gate and continues on to Wind Cave National Park.
Length: 10.3 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate Time: 5 - 6 Hours
Harney Range Trails beginning in Custer State Park (Hiking - Horseback)
Sylvan Lake Trailheads
L Sylvan Lake/Harney Peak Trail #9: This is the easiest and most traveled route to Harney Peak. Trail is marked by blazes cut into the trees with a number 9 branded onto them.
Length: 3 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate Time: 4 - 5 Hours
L Cathedral Spires Trail #4: One of three trailheads along trail #4. This trail connects with trail #9 for the final one mile to the summit of Harney Peak. Trail is marked by blazes cut into the trees with a number 4 branded onto them.
Length: 3.25 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate Time: 4 - 5 Hours
Little Devils Tower Trailhead
M Cathedral Spires Trail #4: One of three trailheads along trail #4. This trail connects with trail #9 for the final one mile to the summit of Harney Peak. Trail is marked by blazes cut into the trees with a number 4 branded onto them. A spur trail branching off of trail #4 ascends to the unique rock formation known as Little Devils Tower. Spectacular views of Cathedral Spires, Harney Peak, and entire southern Black Hills.
Length: 3 miles one way Skill Level: Moderate - Strenuous Time: 4 - 5 Hours
Cathedral Spires Trailhead
N Cathedral Spires Trail #4: One of three trailheads along trail #4. Shortest route to Harney Peak but also the most strenuous. Features unique to the Black Hills are found along this section of trail.
Length: 2.5 miles one way Skill Level: Strenuous Time: 3 - 4 Hours
Within the heart of the Black Hills is an area cherished and used by many people. Bordered on the north by Mount Rushmore National Memorial and on the south by Custer State Park, this area includes the Black Elk Wilderness and the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. Some people call it the "Harney Peak" area, others the "Norbeck" area, and some call it "Heart of the Hills." Norbeck Wildlife Preserve was established by Congress in 1920 for the "protection of game animals and birds and to be recognized as a breeding place therefore." The Preserve covers about 35,000 acres of which 27,800 are managed by the Black Hills National Forest. Most of the remainder is under the jurisdiction of Custer State Park. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, and mountain goat. It also contains rugged granite formations, small lakes, scenic drives. Black Elk Wilderness is in the center of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. Named for Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux holy man, the 9,824 acre Wilderness was designated by Congress on December 22, 1980.
The core of the Black Hills National Forest's hiking and horseback trail system lies within the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and Black Elk Wilderness. It is commonly known as the Harney Range Trail System because most trails lead to Harney Peak from almost any direction. Harney Peak, at 7,242 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. From an historic lookout tower on Harney Peak, one has a panoramic view of four states (South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana) as well as the granite formations and cliffs of the Black Elk Wilderness.
This area contains more than 50 miles of trails and provides a wealth of non-motorized recreation opportunities, ranging from mountain top panoramic views of ponderosa pine forests and spectacular geologic rock formations, to visiting a cool forested stream canyon on a hot summer day and viewing a variety of wildlife.
Horse riders and hikers are the two main user groups utilizing this trail system. A third group, mountain bikers, has become more common in recent years. Although mountain biking is permitted within the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, it is not authorized within the Black Elk Wilderness. Here, all forms of motorized and mechanical transport are prohibited to maintain wilderness values.
The Burlington Northern Railroad abandoned the 'High Line' in 1983 which had been built in 1890 to service the towns between Edgemont on the southern end of the Black Hills and Deadwood on the northern end. The abandoned rail line was converted to a 'rails to trails' and named in honor of former South Dakota governor George S. Mickelson who crusaded for the trail before his untimely death in a plane crash in 1993.
The Mickelson Trail is a 114 mile limestone trail through the heart of the Black Hills. There are more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hardrock tunnels along the trail. The grades do not exceed four percent, although portions of the trail are considered strenuous due to their long steady incline. The longest of which is a 19 mile stretch from Deadwood to Dumont which is the highest point on the trail. There are 14 trailheads, all of which offer parking, self sale trail pass stations, vault toilets, and tables.