This is my mom’s favorite trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It takes you through several biomes, ranging from swampy to forest to wildflower meadow to rocky, and treats you to several spectacular vistas. The biggest payoff is at the end, however; along the way you are teased by glimpses of Mount Rushmore, and the trail concludes in a parking lot across from Mount Rushmore National Memorial with one of the best views of the Faces around.
The trail begins at Iron Creek Horse Camp and runs up and down quite a few steep hills that offer stunning views of the surrounding forest. There are several stream crossings in the low parts that are made more difficult due to the impact horses have on the trail. Sometimes the mud is several inches deep and made quite uneven by horseshoes. The low, swampy areas also house hungry mosquitoes, so it’s a good idea to take along some bug spray or wear long pants. The long pants would also protect you from the poison ivy that likes to lurk along the waterways and even in the middle of the forest. The trail offers solitude, except for the occasional horseback group. The horses leave dukey all along the trail, so watch where you step.
Be sure to look up, though; you will be rewarded by granite formations anchoring cattail marshes and wildflower meadows in the early part of the trail. A clear stream gurgles through the lowland.
Around 1.25 miles from Iron Creek Horse Camp, you will come to a T-section where you can go left (west) towards another T-section or right (east). Take a left; if you go right, it will send you to the Grizzly Bear #7 trailhead. A few hundred yards to the west you will hit another T-section where you are offered a choice between Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7 and Centennial 89. Take a right (north) on Centennial 89.
A little while later, you will come to another T-section where the trail splits off to the right towards Centennial #89B (east) or goes straight ahead, continuing on Centennial #89. Stay on #89; do not take the right for #89B.
This trail tells a story of regeneration. Notice the aspen trees and wild raspberry bushes. This area has been hit hard by wind and pine beetles, resulting in much deadfall. But new life takes hold here. Aspens and raspberries come up in place of the pines in some areas. In other areas, you can see young evergreens finding their way. Ferns and cattails wash the low areas green while the surviving old pines lead the way in higher terrain. Granite formations stand sentinel along the trail.
4 miles from Iron Creek Horse Camp, you will come to one more T-section. A right hand turn (north) takes you on the Blackberry Trail spur up to Mount Rushmore National Monument. Turning left takes you along for several miles behind the Memorial to Horse Thief Lake. Take the right on Blackberry.
As you hike, keep an eye to the mountains in the north. The trees offer a peek-a-boo view of George Washington on the Mount Rushmore Memorial. Eventually Thomas Jefferson joins the view. The Blackberry Trail — the last mile or so — is very steep but very well-maintained by the National Park Service. Horse impact is much less noticeable here, which is much appreciated due to the big climb. Just before the end of the trail, you will come to some picnic tables that offer a nice place for a rest before the grand finale: a well-earned view of Mount Rushmore.