Alkali Creek Nature Trail is a great little hike just off Interstate 90 near Sturgis SD. It is pretty easy to find, just take exit 34 off I-90 and head north past the VFW Memorial Chapel. Not far into The Fort Mead Recreation Area you will see the Alkali Creek Trailhead and Campground. This is also an access point for the Centennial Trail.
The trail is just over a half mile long, but really offers great views of the area. The trail winds through trees and prairie. Plus, you get a great view of Bear Butte.
There are plenty of other recreational opportunities in the area. Bear Butte State Park is about 12 miles north of here. The 7th Calvary trail system is near here too.
Whenever I’m in the Northern Black Hills and want a quick hike, I head to Mount Roosevelt near Deadwood. Along the trail there are great views of the area and you can checkout Friendship Tower. It is one of my favorite hiking trails near Deadwood.
The tower was dedicated in 1919 as a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt. And, it has been a popular place to visit every since. The trail is gravel and less than one mile long. Take some time to enjoy the view from different points along the trail. There are great views of Bear Butte and the plains to the north. And, many Terry peak and Custer peak to the south. Plus, a unique view of the Lead/Deadwood area.
There is a picnic area, so one could make an afternoon of the visit. Take some time to climb to the top of the tower and just really soak in the beauty of the area.
There is a vault toilet available, but no fresh water. You will find this picnic area about two and a half miles from the turn off Highway 85. The turn for Mount Roosevelt Road is right by The Lodge at Deadwood, watch for the signs.
No matter if you are heading east or west on Interstate 90 the Chamberlain Rest Area Facility is a nice place to stop.
There is a great museum that has a re-creation of the 55 foot keel boat used by Lewis and Clark on their discovery expedition. The museum is open from Mid-May to Mid-September each year.
And, the museum and rest area have sweeping views of the Missouri river valley and Lake Francis Case. Plus, the amazing sculpture Dignity of Earth and Sky is located here. This is an amazing tribute to South Dakota’s rich Native American Culture.
I also enjoy the walking paths. I really like to get out and stretch my legs after I’ve been traveling. Do watch for rattlesnakes though.
There is plenty of parking for cars, trucks and campers. Watch for exits 263 and 265 to enjoy this rest area.
If you are into history, maybe take some time to checkout the Old Highway 16 “double barrel” Bridge. It is a fun way to cross the lake from Chamberlain to Oacoma.
The visitor center for Gavins Point Dam is located on Calumet Bluff on the Nebraska side of the river. It is just across the dam from Yankton.
The visitor center offers great views of the power plant and Lewis & Clark Lake. It is a good place to learn about some of the history of the area and get a better understanding of the lake, dam and power plant.
There are even some natural history displays, and discussions of geology.
Visit the Army Corps of Engineers website for hours.
There is a an awe inspiring statue in Chamberlain South Dakota, Dignity of Earth and Sky. This sculpture is found at the rest area on the eastern bluffs of the Missouri River. It is a tribute to the rich Native American Culture in South Dakota. A tribute that states the Native cultures are alive and standing with dignity.
This tribute was sculpted by South Dakotan Dale Lamphere. He used three Native American models ages 14, 29 and 55 to inspire the face of Dignity. The dress was fashioned to resemble dress from the 1850s. She is holding a star quilt with over 100 blue stainless steel diamonds that flutter in the wind. This unique piece of art is lit by LED lighting and is visible from Interstate 90 day and night.
The statue was a gift to the residents of South Dakota. Norm and Eunabel McKie of Rapid City donated one million dollars to make this reality. They announced it in 2014 in honor of the states 125th anniversary of statehood.
It was installed in 2016 and is a popular stop for travelers of I-90. She is high on the bluff and overlooks Chamberlain and Missouri River. You can see the historic Double Barrel Bridge from here.
You can locate the statue between exits 263 and 265 on Interstate 90. The rest area has off ramps accessible by both eastbound and westbound traffic.
The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail is a great way to explore the Badlands. It is only one-half mile and offers great views of the White River Valley. The trailhead and parking area is located about one mile north of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. It is a loop trail and the trail is a combination of boardwalks, stairs and wide gravel paths.
The unique thing about this portion of the Badlands is the vegetation. The Cliff Shelf Formation directs rain water to the area, this allows for more plants than other portions of the park. It feels kind of like an oasis. It is also popular with birds, over 100 bird species have been identified in the area.
The trail is pretty easy, the elevation change is about 300 feet. I image most people can hike it in about 20 to 30 minutes. The trees can provide some relief from the daytime heat of the badlands.
My daughter and I hiked it on a beautiful day in mid November. I was surprised by the number of birds we noticed along the trail. Plus, we really enjoyed the vistas of the area. There are plenty of benches along the trail, great places to stop and appreciate the unique natural beauty of the badlands. If you only hike one trail in the Badlands, this is the one.
Always be on the lookout for wildlife and give them plenty of space. Poison Ivy can also be found in the area. Watch for rattlesnakes. Always carry water, it can be easy to get dehydrated.
Spearfish Canyon is beautiful anytime of year, but fall is my favorite. The vibrant fall colors really accent the natural beauty of the area. There really is something for about everyone. An afternoon drive, maybe a hike early in the morning while the air is really crisp or a short evening hike.
Take a drive
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is 20 miles right through the canyon. It a great way to soak in all the fall foliage. There are plenty of pullouts and places to stop along the way. You’ll drive right by waterfalls and some of the most beautiful areas of the canyon. If you follow the signs at Savoy, you can drive the the Roughlock Falls Viewing area (about one mile off the byway).
Go take a hike
There is plenty of hiking in the canyon. Some of the most beautiful are accessible to hikers of most skill levels. Hike to Spearfish Falls is a loop that is a 1.5 mile total hike and does not disappoint. You are rewarded with a great view of the waterfall above.
Roughlock Falls Nature Trail is also an easy hike about one mile one way. It is a great walk along a stream to the falls.
There are choices if you’d prefer something a bit more challenging too. The 76 trail is only 3/4 miles one way, but has an elevation increase of nearly 1000 feet to the top of the canyon.
For even longer day hikes consider Little Spearfish Trail, Rimrock trail or the Old Baldy Trail. All great options to really spent some quality time enjoying the Black Hills National Forest.
I have many posts about my trips to Spearfish Canyon. I try to share pictures often and report trail conditions.
Visit Spearfish has loads of information.
The Black Hills National Forest has maps, current forest and trail conditions and more.
Black Hills the hike, a nice resource with a local’s perspective.
If you don’t have much time to hike while you are visiting Spearfish Canyon, I would encourage you to put this one high on your list. The trail is rated as moderate. The total hike is 1.5 miles. I love hiking this any time of year.
The trail is pretty easy to find. The path is right behind the Latchstring Inn. The trail has been reworked recently. It is no longer a loop trail, the only access point is just north of the restaurant.
The path is nice and wide and should be manageable by most people that can walk moderate inclines. Just take your time and soak in the beauty of the canyon floor. The waterfall is so beautiful, you’ll want to hangout and enjoy it for awhile. This is just one of the waterfalls of Spearfish Canyon worth visiting.
There is a scenic overlook on the south side of the restaurant that requires no hiking. See the map below.
There is plenty of hiking in the area. Just on the other side of the road is Roughlock Falls Nature Trail. While I like hiking this area all year long, it is definitely one of my favorite fall hikes in the Black Hills. And, if you are staying in Spearfish, be sure to checkout the Lookout Mountain Hiking trails if you want a longer hike.
The Meridian Bridge in Yankton is a great place to get close view of history and take a nice walk. The bridge was opened to foot and bicycle traffic in 2011. Vehicle traffic now crosses the river on the Discovery Bridge. From the upper deck, you really get nice view of the area. One can’t help but notice all the “locks of Love” on the bridge too.
The Meridian Bridge was completed in the summer of 1924. Prior to that, a ferry service was used for river crossings. It is a unique double decker bridge. The top was intended for automobiles and the bottom for rail traffic. It also had a lift in the middle to allow river traffic to pass. It was a toll bridge until 1953. The bottom portion of the bridge was eventually converted for use by automobiles and each level carried one way traffic. If you are bridge buff, be sure to check out the “double barrel” bridge in Chamberlain.
This is a nice areas to spend some time and walk around, perfect for families. Other than walking across the bridge to the Nebraska side, there is more to explore at the Meridian Bridge Plaza area. There are beaches, a splash pad, fountains, sculptures and more.
If you are up for more walking. Lewis and Clark Recreation areas offers the Gavins Point Nature Trail and Chalk Bluff Trails.
One of the first things I noticed when I started walking on the Meridian Bridge in Yankton, is all the locks. According to this newspaper article, it is a European tradition that really began to flourish when the bridge opened to pedestrian traffic in 2011.
Traditions holds you put the initials of your love on the lock. Lock it on the bridge and toss the key in the river. The Parks Department doesn’t have a problem with the locks, but encourages people not to throw the key in the water, but a trash can instead.
If you have some time in Yankton, I’d encourage you to take the time to walk across the Meridian Bridge.