Visitors Explore Black Hills From Natural Perspective

Motorcycles can be heard rumbling through the Spearfish Canyon. High rollers win big or bust in the Deadwood Casinos. Summertime has arrived in the Black Hills and with it come travelers from all over the world. If you have already experienced the monuments and motorcycles, you may be interested in an adventure on the path less traveled. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to explore the Black Hills in a more natural way.

Camping can be a fun way to experience a different kind of night life. The Black Hills National Forest has over 600 individual campsites with 30 different campgrounds to choose from. Most of these campsites have outhouses and potable water, but it would still be wise to plan on bringing your own drinking water. For someone wanting to experience a night in the wild but still be able to enjoy some modern comforts, the Hanna Campground by Cheyenne Crossing might be ideal. There are 13 tent sites available and a spot will cost $16 per night. To get to the campground, take Highway 85 south 7.6 miles from Lead. Turn left at the Hanna Campground sign just past Cheyenne Crossing, and continue 2.2 miles until you have arrived. Weather in the Black Hills can be unpredictable, so be sure to have rain gear such as tarps, and clothes to layer in case of a chilly night. While you roast marshmallows to make S’mores, you may be lucky enough to spot a Whitetail Deer or some of the other local wildlife that call the Forest home. In the morning, make your way back to Cheyenne Crossing and enjoy what Midwest Living magazine has called one of the best breakfast spots in the Midwest.

Hiking is another way to enjoy the Black Hills from a new perspective. The Black Hills offer a wide range of trails that would be doable for anyone from a beginner level to an expert. Poet’s Table lays hidden off of the Little Devil’s Tower trail in Custer State Park. Devil’s Bathtub meanders back and forth across the creek in Spearfish Canyon and takes you on a journey up to a swimming hole that offers a much needed reprieve from the heat on warm summer days. The Forest Service website is a wealth of information when it comes to finding new trails to take. If you want to get out and explore some trails, but don’t want to be in a new area on your own, look into a hiking group like Hike It Baby. There is a branch in Rapid City and Spearfish, and both have regularly scheduled hikes, free of charge. The groups Facebook page has information on the hikes that are scheduled, where they are meeting, what time, and what the level of difficulty is. Newcomers are welcome and highly encouraged. “We are all about encouraging families to get outside and be in nature,” said Rapid City branch leader Megan Vander Heide. “Joining a hike is easy. All you have to do is pick a hike and show up.”

The Black Hills are home to miles of creeks, streams, and lakes. Consider exploring from this unique perspective and try out a canoe or kayak. Carrie Bowers is the owner of Black Hills Adventure Tours, LLC in Rapid City. Her company offers a wide range of adventure packages, including a Pactola Lake kayaking package. All needed equipment and snacks are provided, so to prepare for a day on the lake all one needs to do is dress comfortably. For some, that may just be a swim suit but others may be most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. “We provide a really fun experience,” said Bowers. “I’m blessed to have a very knowledgeable staff and provide people with a unique experience.” Bowers said that they are usually able to make last minute arrangements, but that it is best to plan trips two to three weeks in advance.

There are many ways to enjoy the Black Hills while staying away from the crowds and without spending a small fortune. It is important to keep in mind that there are no janitors in the great outdoors, though. “Especially in low maintenance areas, be sure to always take out what you take in,” said Scott Jacobson, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service. “Try to leave an area looking a little better than how you found it.”