Little Elk Creek Trail- Black Hills
Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Rapid City, South Dakota, Little Elk Creek Trail offers the ability to quickly hop on a scenic trail, and start exploring the woods. This easy trail is a quick detour from I-90, and is close enough to Rapid City for a quick walk in the woods after work. Little Elk Creek Trail is 6 miles long, and gains only 500 feet in the first three miles, making it an easy trail for kids and older adults. Mountain bikers will enjoy the easy trail grade, and will especially appreciate the few boulders on the trail. If you’ve got a few hours to spare, head towards interstate exit 44, and the Black Hills.
As you leave the trailhead parking lot, the trail starts out as a wide gravel road, remnants from a road that washed out in the 70s. As the gravel beneath your feet grows smaller, you enter the Black Hills, and the trail becomes more remote. Hiking along the first stretch, you will see the white gate- a rock formation that looks like an open gate. Shortly thereafter, the trail reaches the red gate- a larger rock formation that also resembles a gate. If you look down when you hike this stretch, you’ll notice the stark contrast of rocks on the trail- the rocks on this trail start as a dull white marble, and then quickly change to a darker red rock.
From here, the trail climbs and falls, matching the drop of Little Elk Creek. Little Elk Creek’s many pools offer a chance to fill your water bottle, or take a relaxing dip in the cool water. The three miles of trail before you hit Dalton Lake Road are absolutely beautiful- the trees are spectacular in the fall, and the unique rock formations add to the natural beauty of the area. At 2.8 (call it three) miles, the trail leads to Dalton Lake Road, officially ending the hike. You’ve gained little elevation, seen spectacular rock formations, and possibly seen some of the local wildlife.
After you’ve reached the end of the trail, you can either head back down to the trailhead, or you can take a quick side trip to Dalton Lake. This side trip is only half of a mile down the gravel road, and is definitely recommended. Dalton Lake supports both a fishery, as well as a campground, should you want to stay overnight. Regardless of how long you stay in the area, you’ll appreciate the quick hike downhill to the trailhead.
Directions to the Trailhead
Drive on Interstate 90, exiting at exit 44. From there, head west on Deerview Road, and turn right (north) onto Sturgis Road. After 1.5 miles, turn left onto Little Elk Creek Road. Drive to the end of the Little Elk Creek Road, and to the trailhead.