*Guest blogger for Visit Rapid City
This summer we decided to take on the trail challenge put forth by Custer State Park. Each year the park challenges locals and tourists alike to hike eight trails within Custer State Park. On each trial there is a bronze medallion with a symbol and the name of the trail on it. The goal of the challenge is to either take a picture of each medallion or do a rubbing on the trail challenge handout they have available at any of the park’s visitor centers.
There was no one there except our group, and there were a ton of wild raspberry bushes! The one and a half mile loop hike actually took us a lot longer to complete because we kept on stopping to snack on the sweet berries! The trail itself has a couple magnificent views of the hills and has a bit of elevation gain/loss, more than I was expecting! From there we headed over to the Badger Clark Historic Trail.
Lovers Leap Trail
This trail was, by far, my most favorite hike of the day because of the amazing views you are awarded once you make it to the top! It was really interesting to see the fire damage (http://www.bhpioneer.com/local_news/custer-fire-park-recovery-and-rebirth/article_fd52603c-1be0-11e8-af1a-afdb00ee48af.html) from the forest fire that happend in December of 2017. All along the trail there were burnt trees and holes in the ground where tree bases and roots used to be. The shapes were so interesting and some of the holes were pretty deep! I had never seen anything like it before.
This three mile loop trail is moderately strenuous but absolutely worth the hike! Be extremely aware of poison ivy when you are going by the creek in the tall grasses. We all had long pants on, besides my husband, and he ended up getting a little bit of poison ivy on his legs. Since he had shorts on, and we knew we went through multiple patches, when we made it back to the vehicle, I used wet wipes to wipe down his legs as well as our dog. We were camping out that night and we didn’t want any of the oil from the plant to end up on us or our gear. I wore rubber gloves (a staple in my first aid kit) when cleaning his legs and my dog so I would protect my hands. I didn’t end up cleaning near his sock line well enough and that is where he got the poison ivy.
The excitement on the evening was when we came across a HUGE bison in the middle of the trail right after dusk. He had left us a big, fresh, present in the middle of the trail, which is how we knew to look for a bison nearby. We were at a pretty steep spot so we had to down climb to go around him.
We made it back to the vehicles and headed to a beautiful spot to camp in the Black Hills National Forest for the evening!
Little Devils Tower
Due to the absolutely stunning views from the top of Little Devils Tower, this is one of my favorite hikes in the Black Hills. Can you guess what the other one is? Black Elk Peak, of course!
They were awfully cute and we enjoyed watching them for a little bit! Once we reached the last bronze medallion, we cheered and headed back up the trail and back to our vehicle! We then drove to the visitor center to show them our pictures and rubbings so we each could collect a Custer Trail Challenge pin!
What to Bring when hiking in the Black Hills
A few things to note when going for a hike in the Black Hills: it is always a good idea to be prepared because you never know what you will come across. Having a day pack with plenty of water, at least 2 liters, snacks, an extra layer, rain jacket, first aid kit, headlamp, bear spray (it also works against other animals, like bison, or humans if danger arises), hat, and proper footwear. The weather can change so quickly and it is so important to be prepared. On one day of our hikes there was sweltering heat. On another day it had torrential rained the night before so everything was very wet and it was a bit chilly out. So we were find with a long sleeve shirt at lower elevation but as we climbing to the top of Little Devils Tower is became cold with the wind. So having a rain jacket and/or warmer layer was important!
For the love of travel and new adventures, we live our lives for the next dream fulfilled!