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Bicycle touring and pleasure riding are popular in the Black Hills. Rapid City boasts a 13 1/2 mile bikeway along Rapid Creek, but most riding is done on our wide shouldered highways. Some of the favorite rides are Rapid City to Mount Rushmore; the Needles Highway; Iron Mountain Road; Spearfish Canyon; and the Badlands Loop Road. All have some steep grades and long climbs, but the scenery is worth it. Mountain biking is growing fast in the Black Hills, thanks to almost 6,000 miles of fire trails, logging roads and abandoned railroad grades that crisscross the back country ridges, wind down canyons and climb to mountain tops. Some of our hiking trails are also pedaled by mountain bikers. Click here to see a picture of the Rapid City recreational bike path:
Bike Path Map
Black Hills golf courses twist deep into pine forests, cross rushing trout streams and open up to distractingly spectacular mountain vistas. Good golfers are challenged by the tree-lined fairways of Meadowbrook Municipal Golf Course in Rapid City. Or the severe angles of the Boulder Canyon Country Club near Sturgis. Or the killer par 5 eighth hole on Rapid City's Elks Club Course. There are 17 golf courses in the Black Hills. You'll also find golf courses in Buffalo, Phillip, Sundance, Hulett and Newcastle, Wyoming.
The nation's oldest mountain range, the Black Hills provide a nearly complete stratigraphic history. The Hills are among the top 5 localities in the U.S. for a variety of minerals. In addition to the state's official mineral, rose quartz, more than 140 other minerals are found here. Vivid agate deposits, especially the multicolored Tepee Canyon agate, hide in scenic limestone canyons. The states official gem, the Fairburn agate, can be spotted in alluvial deposits along the foothills. The rockbeds are scattered near Kadoka, Interior, Scenic and Fairburn. These eroding badlands areas, where collecting is allowed, are administered by the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. Collectiong is not allowed, however, in the Badlands National Park. Mineral collections are found at the Museum of Geology in Rapid City and the June Culp Zeitner collection at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo. Advice is available from rock shops in the area, or from local gem and mineral societies.
The uncrowded, natural surroundings of Western South Dakota are ideal for walking, hiking and back-packing. The Black Hills National Forest and surrounding State and National Parks offer around 400 miles of both nature walks and bona fide hiking systems on approximately 75 different trails throughout the Black Hills. For a map and more information on Black Hills trails, contact the Black Hills National Forest at; 605-673-2251.
As you travel west across South Dakota, the prairie and plains give way to the savage landscapes of the Badlands country. Here you can camp in unearthly settings, surrounded by moonlit ramparts and jagged skylines of Badlands formations. You'll never see more stars than you'll see here! There are enough campsites in the Black Hills to accomodate nearly 25,000 camping guests. Outdoor living among the pines is superb! The region offers a woodsy, high-elevation environment where the nights are cool, there are few mosquitoes, and there are no wild bears at all. Both the SD Vacation Guide and the South Dakota Campground Guide publications describe area campgrounds, and are free.
From fly fishing to ice fishing, the fishing season never closes in South Dakota, which makes the pursuit of trout a year round sport. The Black Hills are home to 14 mountain lakes and more than 300 miles of meandering streams containing brook, brown and rainbow trout. On the surrounding prairie, reservoirs and ranch stock dams also provide angling fun, more than 50,000 stock dams brimming with largemouth bass, northern pike and a variety of panfish. A slow and stealthy approach is needed for fishing small-stream trout. Keeping a low profile using brush and boulders to conceal your approach assists in success. Local fly fishing shops and country stores will help you determine the best flies and bait to use during a particular season. The best fishing waters are located at; Deerfield Reservoir and Pactola Reservoir; Stockade Lake, Sheridan Lake, Rapid Creek, French Creek, Spearfish Creek, Spring Creek and Castle Creek. Most waters are stocked, but in about half, wild trout thrive. Rainbow trout are the most abundant fish in the Black Hills.
You can really appreciate South Dakota from the back of a good saddle horse. About a dozen trail ride outfits and guest ranches offer one hour, two hour and half-day rides for about $10-$15 an hour. For longer rides and more freedom, try the outfitters who run Centennial Trail pack trips, Dakota Badlands Expeditions, or local dude ranches. Many vacationers trailer their horses to the Hills, then ride on their own, or join up with weekend treks organized by local horse clubs. Custer State Park is the most popular riding area, but much of the hiking trail network in the Hills is for trail riding. We even have "horse camps" where the people-camping is primitive, but the horse-camping is deluxe: corrals, water wells, feed bunks and parking for your trailer.
From mountain-climbing goats to prairies of roaming buffalo, you'll encounter opportunities to view and photograph wild animals up close. Bald eagles, prairie dogs, elk, bighorn sheep, wild horses and many more species call the Black Hills home. The wildlife parks of the southern Black Hills are renowned for nature photography. Nearly 1,800 buffalo roam free in Custer State Park and are easily spotted from the road. Buffalo can also be viewed at Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park. Custer State Park, Wind Cave and the Black Hills National Forest also offer elk, antelope, Bighorn sheep and bald eagle sightings. Always have your camera ready and be prepared to pull off the road. But don't take foolish risks... there are wild critters and you're in their territory.
The technical face-climbing offered in the Black Hills is considered some of the best in the world. Mountaineers say most climbs are short, but very difficult. They range from Easy 5.0 to Extremely Difficult 5.14. It's a great place to practice the purist style of free climbing because there are so many individual summits within this miniature mountain range. Black Hills granite is sharp and abrasive, but is almost always sound. The premier climb in the Black Hills is the 865 foot face of Devil's Tower. More than 80 separate routes to the summit have been described since climbing records were started in 1937. The National Park Service says that every year, more than 5,000 climbers scale the Tower. The Needles-Sylvan Lake district of the Harney Range in the Black Hills is another popular area for climbing. About 1,000 towering granite spires offer climbs ranging from bouldering to 300 foot ascents. Then you either downclimb or rappel. Some spires still have not been climbed. Sports shops in Rapid City, Hill City, Spearfish and Keystone stock climbing equipment, maps and guidebooks. There are several local outfitters offering climbing lessons, gear and guided climbs.
Water Sports & Country Fun
Fourteen man-made lakes provide boat launching, water skiing, sailing, paddleboating, canoeing, wind-surfing, swimming and scuba diving. There is a never ending list of places to "explore" in the Black Hills. Four-wheel-drive treks are popular because they often lead to unexpected ghost towns, gold mines, homesteads or fire lookout towers.