We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Black Hills of Wyoming on these trails. Parts of the trail system have existed since the 1800s when miners and homesteaders came to the Bearlodge Mountains. We started at the trailhead in the Sundance Campground parking lot. We had downloaded the Avenza app prior to arriving, through which the Forest Service offers free trail maps and live GPS tracking on the trail. This app helped us navigate some of the harder-to-find parts of the trail, so we highly recommend it.
The trail starts in pine forest, peeking out at vast expanses of prairie bordered by pine-covered mountains and the “red racetrack” that circles the Black Hills. We then journeyed through a lush canyon where the trail was sometimes treacherous due to thick grass that covered loose rock. There is a bit of poison ivy on these trails, even in arid biomes where you wouldn’t expect it. We were treated to impressive stands of aspen where the white tree trunks shone like beacons in the morning sun, their leaves glittering in the breeze. We saw large fields of wildflowers dotted with butterflies in some areas, and sun-infused grasses in others. In some parts, we hiked along a gravel road shared by motorized vehicles. Note: you can avoid motorized trails if you stick to the east side of the park, and we only saw a couple of motorized vehicles. We traveled through one section – labeled I on the map, Ogden Ridge Trail on the signs - where we barely found the trail thanks to the Avenza app and piles of rock other hikers left to guide our way.
We packed 2.5 gallons of water for the hike, and drank every drop of it. For three people and a big dog, we probably could have consumed another quart each. Much of this hike was unprotected from the sun, so bring plenty of sunblock as well.
If you’re looking for peace, this is the trail for you. We did not encounter any other hikers in the entire 16 miles we hiked, although we did see two sets of horseback riders and three sets of mountain bikers. We hiked during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally when other areas of the Black Hills were packed with people.
Part of what sets this trail system apart from others in the Black Hills is the openness. There are more awesome vistas per mile in this trail system than any other part of the Black Hills. Another differentiator for these trails is the dramatic differences you find each mile. One mile you are hiking a ridge at 6,000 feet and can see for miles; another mile you are on a canyon floor looking up at impressive rock formations. One minute you’re walking through grass-laden waterways rimmed by aspen and oak; in another few minutes you find yourself in a rocky biome that looks something like the surface of the moon. Soon you’re under the pines again, then before you know it you’re greeted by wild asters and black-eyed Susans in a meadow. Summed up, it adds up to one spectacular hike.