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2019-09-24 Adventure in South Dakota

The Basics:
Event Type:Adventure
Event Location: South Dakota with home base in Rapid City, SD
Date(s) & Time:Tue, Sep 24 2019  8:00 am >> Wed, Oct 2 2019 8:00 pm
Registration Opens: Tue, Jul 2 2019 7:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Tue, Jul 2 2019 7:00 pm
Event Duration:9 Days
Difficulty Rating:D5: Difficult
Trip Leader(s):
Bill Wey
Email Trip Leader(s)
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:1
Minimum Group Size:1
Number Registered So Far: 16 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: No


This outing is planned for hiking and exploring South Dakota in 9 days and 8 nights. It is designed for members with positive, adaptive, and flexible spirits. Good physical fitness and endurance are also required.

This web page is designed so that you can only put yourself on the waiting list. Once you’re verified to be suitable for this trip, you will be moved to the participant list.

Meeting place: from 9/25 (Wednesday) to 10/1 (Tuesday)

We’ll first meet at Foothills Inn parking lot at address: 1625 N Lacrosse St, Rapid City, SD 57701.

We’ll work out rental car sharing and lodging options once registration and participant list are confirmed.

<<< Itinerary >>>

9/24 (Tuesday)

Take flight from home town to Rapid City, SD and check in Lodging.

9/25 (Wednesday) we’ll meet at 8:00 am.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

After spending time exploring Mount Rushmore, we will hike from Mount Rushmore to Horsethief Lake & back. It’s about 9 miles. This is a D4 event.

Trailhead is located at the southern end of the Mount Rushmore parking lot. Cross SD 244 on the curve with a highway railing. Climb over the railing and the well-used dirt trail can be easily spotted. There is a small trailhead panel with a map at the starting point of Blackberry Trail.

After 0.9 miles on Blackberry Trail, we’ll encounter a T intersection with Centennial Trail #89, and we’ll go west-northwest (right) for 2.5 miles. We’ll stay north (right) at junction with Horsethief Lake Trail #14. At 4.5 miles, we’ll arrive at Horsethief Lake. After taking our break at the lake, we’ll turn around and retrace our way to get back to our cars.


Black Elk Peak.

This is the highest Mt. in SD standing at 7,242 feet. It is also the highest point in the US east of the Rocky Mountains. We’ll start from the beautiful Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park to the summit.

The Black Elk Peak Loop trail goes up past Little Devils Tower along the Little Devils Tower Trail #4, joining with the Cathedral Spires Trail #4A, and continuing on to meet up with the Norbeck #3 trail to finally reach the summit of Black Elk Peak.

Along our way we will go by the side trail to the Little Devils Tower.  This excursion make our distance a little longer than just going to the summit, but it can be well worth the effort.

The return brings us down a different path using the Harney Peak #9 (South) trail. This will allow us to see different views on the way back.

This trail is in the rocky terrain and the scenery is beautiful with many look out points offering extraordinary views of the entire Black Hills and the surrounding area. There are 0.75 miles of trail near the top are sandy and slippery. There are also stairs close to the peak to climb to the summit. This is a D4 event.


9/26 (Thursday) we’ll meet at 9:00 am.
Badlands National Park.

We’ll first make a stop at Badlands NP Ben Reifel Visitor Center to review its exhibits and info. Ben Reifel Visitor Center is at Google address 25216 SD-240, Interior, SD 57750.

We’ll then trek about 12 miles along Castle Trail. Door (and Window) Trailhead is about 2.3 miles from the Visitor Center turn right and following SD-240 E Road.

We will take Door trail 0.8 miles, Window trail 0.3 miles, and Notch trail 1.5 miles.

Castle Trail begins at the Door (and Window) Trail parking lot and travels through the Fossil Exhibit Trail. We will get to see a variety of very special and famous Badlands formations. This out-and-back route is not strenuous itself, but there is very little shade and lots of exposure! So be prepared for that. This is a D4 event.


9/27 (Friday) we’ll meet at 5:00 am.

Custer State Park.

It is 54th Annual Buffalo Roundup & Arts Festival in Custer State Park.

Custer State Park is a South Dakota State Park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The park covers an area of over 71,000 acres (287 km2) of hilly terrain.

The park is home to a famous herd of 1500 free roaming bison. Elk, coyotes, mule deer, white tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, pronghorn, cougars, and feral burros also inhabit the park.

The park is famous for its scenery, its scenic drives (Needles Highway and the wildlife loop), with views of the bison herd and prairie dog towns. This park is easily accessible by road from Rapid City.

We plan to arrive by 6:15 am to have better options for viewing area. It’s recommended we bring our own folding chair or something for seating. They are available at Rapid City Wal-Mart. Roundup is from approx. 9:30-11:30 am. Breakfast and Lunch will be available on site for purchase. Park entrance license is not required on the Roundup day. North Parking & Viewing: Follow the Green Route on the map. South Parking & Viewing: Follow the Red Route on the map. Porta-pottys are available. We will leave the Roundup & Arts Festival after lunch.

We will make a stop at the Custer State Park Visitor Center to review its exhibits and info. We’ll then spend as much time as you prefer in the afternoon on the Wildlife Loop Road and Needles Highway to view the famous wildlife in the Custer State Park. This is a D1 event.

<<< Optional Hiking >>>

We’ll have an optional hiking in the afternoon on a section of the Centennial Trail from Samelius Trailhead to Sheridan Lake for about 10 miles. This is a one way hike requires car shuttle before and after hike.

Centennial Trail, one of the only two routes in the Black Hills exceeding 100 miles in total length, beckons experienced hikers and backpackers from around the world. It spans from Bear Butte State Park in the north to Wind Cave National Park in the southern hills, covering prairie grasslands, navigating the mountainous region of the Black Hills, and alongside of many lakes, creeks, and streams. This is a D3 event.

Samelius Trailhead is about 3 miles once turning on US-16W on the way driving from Custer State Park to Sheridan Lake. It is around the junction with Twin Springs Rd. There is a 7-foot tunnel under US-16W.


Spearfish Canyon

9/28 (Saturday) we’ll meet at 7:30 am.

Spearfish Canyon

We’ll first visit the Spearfish Canyon with two canyons, Spearfish and Little Spearfish, come together to offer spectacular views. We will trek three trails in the Spearfish Canyon where Orion Pictures “Dances with Wolves” was filmed. The movie, released in 1990, was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and took home Oscars for Best Cinematography, Director, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound, Original Screenplay and Picture.

We will take Little Spearfish Loop Trail 7.5 miles, and then the relative short Spearfish Falls Trail 1 mile; and the Roughlock Falls Nature Trail 2 miles. This is D3 event.

Once we get to Spearfish, we’ll take US Highway 14A (Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway) going south about 14 miles to Savoy. Then take FR 222, Roughlock Falls Road, for 4.7 miles to the trailhead of Little Spearfish Loop Trail in the Timon Campground.

After the first hike, we’ll drive back to Savoy at the parking of Spearfish Falls Trail trailhead next to lodge. Then the Roughlock Falls Nature Trail is in the same area 0.2 miles away on the Roughlock Falls Road.


Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.

We’ll visit Devils Tower in the second half of the day. We’ll take the most scenic route of I-90 W and US-14 W to WY-24 E to fully enjoy our driving and viewing plenty of beautiful vistas. It’s an easy and relaxed 1-hour drive. We’ll spend some time touring the Visitor Center before hiking the most popular Tower Trail in the park. It’s a short and easy 1.5 miles on the paved surface.

It starts across the parking area from the Visitor Center. After a steep section leads us to a junction; we'll then go around the base of the Tower in either direction. The trail goes through ponderosa pine forest and the boulder field. Interpretative signs explain some of the geology and ecology of Devils Tower National Monument. There are benches along the path to take a snack break and enjoy views of the Tower. We’ll then take the same route driving back to Rapid City.



9/29 (Sun) we’ll meet at 9:00 am.

Crazy Horse Memorial & Cathedral Spires

It's the 7th annual Fall Crazy Horse Volksmarch. This event is sponsored by the Black Hills Chapter of the American Volkssport Association (AVA) and hosted by Crazy Horse Memorial. This annual autumn hike is held on Sunday, September 29. It is the public’s second chance of the year to hike up the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. The out and back hiking is 6 miles with 500 feet elevation gain.

We’ll take the near-by Cathedral Spires trail in the afternoon. It is 2 miles out and back with 530 feet elevation gain. It is rated as a strenuous trail by the park.

Cathedral Spires can feel deceptively easy at the beginning, but once reaching some of the short rock scrambles, one can understand the difficulty rating. Be prepared to climb over some rocky stretches of trail as it gradually gains elevation. Despite these tricky spots, there is also a fair amount of level trail. A nice feature of this trail is the area of flat, open ground at the end where we can enjoy a very nice break among the spires.

Cathedral Spires trailhead is about 2.2 miles east of Sylvan Lake following SD-87 S road. This is a D3 event.


9/30 (Monday) we’ll meet at 6:00 am.

George S. Mickelson Trail section from Rochford trailhead to Hill City trailhead.

The George S. Mickelson Trail was completed in September of 1998.  Its gentle slopes and easy access allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills. There are more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hard rock tunnels along the 109 miles route.

The distance of our section is 22.5 miles with easy and gentle grade. The total elevation gain is about 800 feet and spread out over a long stretch of about 7 miles. Although the distance is very long, it is easy to hike on this trail. The scenery is very pretty and calming. It’ll be so enjoyable that we go on foot, and hence we don’t miss any delights along the way. We go one way from north (Rochford) to south (Hill City), so we need to arrange car shuttle. It will take extra time in the beginning and the end. This is a D5 event only due to its distance.

We have 2 options today: biking or hiking. Bicycle rental shops are available in Rapid City and Hill City. They can deliver to any starting point, and they also provide shuttle servcie. Please make your own bike rental arrangement if you’re interested in biking.



10/1 (Tuesday) we’ll meet at 7:30 am.

Wind Cave Nationa Park.

We’ll first make a stop at Wind Cave NP Visitor Center to take its Natural Entrance Cave Tour.

The tour lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes, is 2/3 mile long, and encounters 300 stairs (mostly down). The tour enters the cave near the natural entrance and exits by elevator. It’s much colder in the cave so a jacket or sweater is a good idea. Ticket is $12 for those are 61 and under, and $6 for those are 62 and above. We’d like to get in the 9:00 tour.

After cave tour, we will take a break and then trek the 11 miles Sanctuary-Centennial-Highland Creek, a 3-Trail-combo Loop.

This is a lollipop-shaped route highlights the varied terrain of the park. It is the perfect way to see first-hand the different ecosystems that Wind Cave National Park has to offer. We’ll be able to enjoy both high prairie environments as well as more riparian regions. There are sweeping vistas, rolling hills, cool streams, and the diversity of plant and animal life along the way.

From the visitor center we’ll take SD-87 N road heading north about 7.2 miles to the Sanctuary trailhead.

We’ll start going along the Sanctuary Trail for about 3 miles, we'll come to an intersection with the Centennial Trail. We’ll go straight/ or fork right to follow Centennial Trail. When we reach an intersection with the Centennial Spur Trail, we’ll take a right (heading southeast), and continue the descent on the Centennial Spur Trail. Head down on this short spur, and we'll soon turn onto the Highland Creek Trail. We will climb out of the valley to return to the high prairie till it intersects back to Sanctuary Trail. We’ll then follow Sanctuary Trail to get back to our cars. This is a D3 event.


10/2 (Wednesday)

Take flight from Rapid City, SD back to home town.

Required Items to Bring:

Layers of clothing suitable for the season.

Good trail running/hiking shoes.

Water, lunch/snacks, and day pack.

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

Hiking poles


Rain gear just in case


This is not an AOC paid event. All costs (transportation, lodging, meals & drinks) are paid by members on their own.

Itinerary is subject to change at the discretion of the trip leader.

We will stay in Rapid City, South Dakota as our home base. There are many lodging options in Rapid City, SD. The choice of lodging is completely optional of each participant.

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.