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Hiking near Yankton SD on the Chalk Bluffs Trail

There is a really great hiking trail about 7 miles west of Yankton. The Chalk Bluffs Trail is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. You’ll find it located in the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area. It is a South Dakota State Park, so you’ll have to pay a day fee or have a state park sticker.

Hiking this trail can be adjusted depending on how far you’d like to hike and your ability level. Loop A is 1.5 miles, Loop B is 3 miles and Loop C is 4.1 miles. I Hiked loop C on an early September day. It was about 70 degrees with a light breeze. I happened to be working in Yankton and knew it was just too nice to head back home at 5 o’clock. I’m glad I took the time to hike this trail.small bridge along the chalk bluff trail south dakota

The trail is rated very difficult. It is very hilly and the trail is loose in some spots. I could see the trail being “greasy” on rainy days. After I completed my hike, my iPhone health app indicated I’d climbed 82 flights of stairs (and my legs were a bit sore the next day). The day I was there, flies were terrible. When ever I stopped there just tons of flies landing on me. I spoke with a  local resident on the trail and she said it doesn’t happen too often, so don’t be dissuaded by the flies – I’d still hike it again with or without flies.

There is a lot of up and down on the trail. You are afforded many great views of Lewis and Clark Lake, plus the trail takes you down into little gullies located along side the lake. I just really enjoyed the trail, but it is a workout. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead. No water or services are available along the trail. Bring plenty of water and snacks.

I’m going to try and make it back when the leaves have turned this fall, I bet it is a great autumn hike. Also, I wonder if the parking lot is kept open in the winter? I think it would be fun to snowshoe there.

If you are wanting a hike that is less strenuous, the Gavins Point Nature Trail is located near by. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has a good map of the trail here. And, visit the official website of the park to learn about camping and other activities located here.

Little Spearfish Falls on the Nature Trail

If we only have time for one hike when visiting Spearfish Canyon with friends and family, this is it. Any time of year this waterfall created where Little Spearfish Creek dumps into Spearfish Creek is fun to visit. Nothing like feeling the spray from the waterfall and watching the stream rush by. I love all of Spearfish Canyon, but this is high on the list of must see areas.

The little gem of a nature trail is found behind the Latchstring Inn, which is just across the road from the Spearfish Canyon Lodge.  This is the area known as Savoy. It is about 13 miles from Spearfish on the scenic byway. The trail is a 3/4 mile loop that descends a little over 100 feet.

Along the trail you will cross Spearfish Creek twice and have a chance to see some on the local flora.  Many people should be about to manage the trail, however there are stairs and portions of the trail are uneven and rocky.

If you have more time while in the area, hike to the canyon rim on the 76 trail. Or, enjoy the 1-mile hike to Roughlock Falls.  One could easily spend a whole day exploring the canyon.  There are more waterfalls to see and some really great hiking.

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stop at the pond along roughlock falls nature trail

You can drive to Roughlock Falls, but if you have time, the hike certainly adds to the experience.  The one mile hike along Little Spearfish Creek is a great way to soak in the beauty of Spearfish Canyon.

There is very little elevation change from the beginning of the trail (just behind Spearfish Canyon Lodge) all the way to the base of Roughlock Falls. It gives you a chance to view wildlife and plants found in the canyon.

Look for the signs past the parking lot of Spearfish Canyon Lodge.  There is a parking area and a vault toilet.  There is no fresh water available, so be sure to bring plenty of your own. Snacks and a jacket are a good idea too. You will see the small intake pond (pictured above) near the start of the trail. Roughlock Trail is great way for people of all ages to enjoy Spearfish Canyon and see one of the waterfalls in the area. When you reach the falls, you will find more vault toilets and several picnic areas. In the winter the road is closed to vehicles as it becomes part of the snowmobile trail, but you could still snowshoe to the falls.

Roughlock Falls is managed by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Admission is free. Visit their website for more details.

Below is is just one of the many maps and signs found along the trail.



roughlock falls nature trail map

The Start of the Mickelson Trail the trailhead in Deadwood

The north end of the Mickelson Trail is found in Deadwood.  The trailhead is right in town. There is a large parking lot and access to fresh water.  Use of the trail in city limits is free. However, to use the trail out of town purchase a pass at the trailhead or online.

You can depart from here, but I love this to be the end of my ride.  If you can find someone to give you a ride to the Dumont Trailhead and then ride back to Deadwood.  It is downhill most the way. And, then you’ll have some energy left to enjoy Deadwood’s nightlife.

The whole trail is really neat.  It follows an old rail road bed all the way from Deadwood to Edgemont.  109-miles right through some of the most beautiful areas of the Black Hills.  If you plan on exploring much of the trail you may find The Mickelson Trail Guide Book useful.

The Deadwood Trailhead of the Mickelson Trail  is just north of the hospital and very near the Taco John’s (incase you get hungry).  It is a short walk from the downtown area and  it really is a nice ride or walk. And, don’t forget there is loads of great hiking in the Deadwood area.

farm island bike trail is just outside of Pierre sd

I’ve been meaning to checkout the bike trails at Farm Island in Pierre for awhile now.  As luck would have it, I had some meetings for work in Pierre – so I brought my bicycle along.

I got out of my meeting about 3pm and it happened to be nearly 100 degrees.  I decided some exercise still sounded good after sitting through meetings most of the day.  I bought plenty of water and head east out of Pierre on SD Highway 34.

Farm Island Recreation Area is a state park and only about 2.5 miles from Pierre.  It looks like the city bike path goes all the way out to the State Park.  I have a state park window sticker, but if you don’t you’ll have to pay a day use fee to enter the park.

There are several miles of trails on the island.  Most of the trails are gravel roads and easy riding.  Some of the other trails are not gravel, they are more sandy.  The sandy trails are more work to petal, but also more fun to ride.  There are trees along the trails, even though it was a really hot day, I was shaded during most of my ride.  Take a look at the map provided by SD game fish and parks.  There are some ruins of an old boy scout camp and golf course on the island.

In addition to the trails, the park has camping and fishing.  It is a popular camping area and Hipple lake is also a popular recreation destination.  The park also offers Canoe and Kayak rentals.  I know I would like to visit again with my standup paddle board.

Be sure to visit the Farm Island Recreation Area website for all the details.  I could see myself visiting here again.

Friendship Tower found just outside Deadwood South Dakota

Friendship Tower is a great little hike just outside Deadwood.  It is located in Mount Roosevelt Picnic Area just about 3.5 miles out of town.

The tower was built in 1919 as a tribute to President Theodore Roosevelt from Seth Bullock.  There have been recent stabilization and preservation improvements made to the tower.

It is possible to climb to the top and enjoy great views of the area.  There are also several picnic tables and a vault toilet.

If you have some extra time when you are in the Deadwood area, I would encourage you to check this out.  I don’t believe they plow the road in the winter, so this is a summer and fall hike.

Directions to Friendship Tower from Deadwood

Head north on US Highway 85 out of Deadwood, turn onto Mt Roosevelt road at the Lodge at Deadwood and you will find the picnic area and tower about 2 miles down the road.  Watch my video to see the drive.

Dinosaur Park in Rapid City South Dakota

Did you know there are dinosaurs looking over Rapid City?  They’ve been there for nearly 80 years.  This great free attraction in the Black Hills is a beloved part of Rapid City’s skyline.

Dinosaur Park in Rapid City is located at 940 Skyline Drive.  There is no admission fee.  The park is run by the city.  Restrooms and a gift shop are open May 31st through September 6th each year.

My family and I love to stop by this park when we are in Rapid City.  It gives the children a great opportunity to run and play.  Plus, you get a great view of Rapid City and the Black Hills.  Although, there is no cost to visit, you must climb several stairs if you wish to be rewarded with the stunning vista.

The city is near loads of outdoor recreational opportunities, you know, the over one million acres that makes up the Black Hills National Forest.  However, you don’t even need to leave the city to get in some quality nature time.  M Hill is located in Hanson-Larson Memorial Park (HLMP).  This is a 300 plus acres park located right in the city!  This is perfect to explore in summer or winter.  With nearly 20 miles of trails, this park should keep you occupied for awhile.

There is plenty to explore in Rapid City, and much of it is free!  If you are a fan of large natural areas in the city I would encourage you to visit Spearfish’s Lookout Mountain Park – over 700 acres of wild terrain to explore – right in the city.


Wilmarth Lake

Wilmarth Lake in eastern South Dakota

Wilmarth Lake is located in Aurora County in Eastern South Dakota.  The 103 acre lake is about 10 miles north and 4 miles west of Plankinton.  It was constructed in 1936 as a WPA project and named after Fred Wilmarth who had farmed in the area since 1906.  The lake is filled by Firesteel Creek.

I’d never been to the lake before and my daughters were ready for a little road trip, so we went to visit Lake Wilmarth.  We arrived at the Lake via Highway 281.  We turned west on 243rd Street and continued about 6 and half miles to the lake.  It is a nice lake in a quiet setting.

There are two access roads.  One on the far east end has shore access and along the dam and near the spillway.  The Northwest access area has a vault toilet, dock and boat ramp.  It is a nice wild life area with mature trees and plum thickets.  There is some private land on the north side of the lake, watch for the no trespassing signs.

According to a 2011 GF&P survey, the lake is home to Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, bullheads, yellow perch, black crappie, northern pike and sunfish.  The lake is a no wake lake, meaning boats may not travel any faster than 5 miles per hour.  There is no beach.  Shore fishing could be a bit tricky in places as cattails surround the lake.

I see this as great place to go canoeing or teach your children how to kayak.  I doubt there is every a large crowd at the lake.  Just a great place to enjoy the water and do some fishing.

Deadwood Trailhead Mickelson Trail

The Northern end of the George S Mickelson Trail can be found in Deadwood South Dakota.  This is a 109-mile trail that slices right through the middle of the Black Hills.  A great way for walkers, runners, bicycle riders and horseback riders experience the beauty of the area.

The trail is a converted rail road bed and just beautiful all the way to Edgemont.  If you ride the whole trail you will cross more than 100 bridges and travel through 4 rock tunnels.  Use of the trail is free within city limits, but otherwise requires a pass you can purchase at the trailhead or online.  You can even snowshoe on portions of the trail, then Englewood Trailhead is great for snowshoeing.

If you are up for a long ride, I would encourage you to get a ride to the Dumont Trailhead.  From there the 16 mile trip is mostly downhill.  A nice ride through the beautiful Northern Black Hills.


Other Recreation Options

There are plenty of other great outdoor recreations options in the Deadwood area too.  Something for almost everyone.  Short hikes, long hikes and even scenic drive.

Mount Roosevelt is just a few miles from town.  This is a short loop hike.  It takes you to Friendship tower and amazing views of the surrounding Black Hills and plains to the north.  Watch my YouTube video to see how to drive to Mount Roosevelt.

Hiking to White Rocks will give you a bird’s eye view of Deadwood and the surrounding hills.  You can even see Bear Butte from up there.  My favorite way to go through Mount Moriah Cemetery and continue up to Seth and Martha Bullock’s grave, then head to the top of the hill, if you are not out breath, the view will take your breath away.  There is a geocache up there too.

Spearfish Canyon is just a 20 minute drive from Deadwood and really cool waterfalls and plenty of hiking.

Devils Tower is over an hour drive away.  I feel it is worth the drive.  It is really an amazing natural feature and the nation’s first National Monument.  There are several hiking options too.

Centennial Trail starts at Bear Butte and ends 111 miles later in Wind Cave National.  Like the Mickelson Trail, it is a great way to explore the Black Hills National Forest.  The Fort Meade and Alkali Creek trailheads are the closest to Deadwood.

goat island missouri river

Goat Island is in the middle of the Missouri River along the South Dakota and Nebraska Border.  It is in-between Yankton and Vermillion.  The closest boat ramp on the South Dakota side is Myron Grove, and Brooky Bottom on the Nebraska side.  The island is part of the 59-Mile District of the Missouri National Recreational River.

The 4-mile long island has a storied past.  Many locals also know it as Jakes Island, after a Vermillion attorney who raised watermelons and goats on the island.  There had been others who claimed ownership over the years, but is currently under the management of the Federal Bureau of Land Management.

It is really a unique portion of the river that surrounds the island.  The river is still “wild” in appearance.  It has not been channelized, so it is much like the river Lewis and Clark would have encountered.  Sand bars are numerous along this portion of the river as well.  The flow can vary greatly depending on the amount of water released at the dam.

I had an opportunity to canoe this sections of the river, with a stop at Goat Island.  I had never been on such a large river.  It is quite the experience to get so close to the river.  Some sections are nearly a mile wide, if you get a chance I would encourage you to explore the area.

Useful Resources.

Missouri National Recreational River website

Map of the river and island

Geocache on the island