the Best Black Hills Hikes for Kids

This is a difficult list to compile because there are so many wonderful miles of beautiful trails to enjoy in the Black Hills. Instead of focusing on scaling peaks or the best views (although these hikes do have great views), we selected hikes with kid-size fun and wonder (wading through water, climbing boulders, skipping rocks).

Before start going through our best-of list, we also took the time to compile a few tips that will make hiking with your kids more enjoyable.  Without further ado, here are the Best Black Hills Hikes for Kids:

Sylvan Lake Trail, (1.1 miles, easy)

Sylvan Lake

This is a beautiful hike around Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. The surprise is that there are waterfalls in the “back.”  If you’re looking for a more educational experience, the General Store offers guided geology walks.
Getting there: Sylvan Lake Trail is located in Custer State Park. Use Custer State Park SD Hwy 87 entrance. You will need to pay for a State Park pass.

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Stratobowl Rim Trail (1.7 miles, easy)


This hike offers spectacular views and an incredible history.  It was the site of the birthplace of the space age. In 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere to a record 72,395 feet. The trail is wide and the hills are gentle making it ideal for even the littlest of hikers.
Getting there: The trailhead is located about two miles west of Bear Country on Highway 16 south of Rapid City. After Bear Country there is a gas station. Take an immediate right after the gas station to turn into the trailhead parking lot. Here you will find a tiny parking area and a gate across the road.

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Devil’s Bathtub (easy)


This hike meanders through a creek with the reward being a pool to splash in (and a natural water slide if you’re brave enough to try it!).  The “real bathtub” is another 10 minute hike from the water slide.  Plan on getting wet.  This hike is also gorgeous in the fall when the leaves are at peak.
Getting there:  Devil’s Bathtub is located in Spearfish Canyon. Once you turn onto the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (off of Colorado Blvd), it is about miles. Look for Cleopatra Place road. There is a small gravel parking lot there. Park and cross the bridge. The trail will be on the south side.

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Roughlock Falls (2.1 miles, easy)


One of the most scenic hikes where you are rewarded with a cascading 50-foot waterfall.  The trail is one of the few trails that are handicap accessible.  Keep your eyes out for the American Dipper, a rare bird that has the ability to both walk and swim under water.
Getting there: Roughlock Falls are located in Spearfish Canyon. The trail starts right behind Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Savoy, South Dakota.

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Spring Creek Loop (4.2 miles, easy)


This hike offers scenic views of Spring Creek, Sheridan Lake and ends at the upper section of the historic Flue Trail but more importantly, it offers kids the chance to cross log bridges and see geysers. *Note: if you plan on using a backpack to transport kids, the log bridges can be tricky.  You can cross in the stream.
Getting there: The loop is easily accessible from the Upper Spring Creek trailhead. From Rapid City, take Sheridan Lake Road about 16 miles southwest toward Sheridan Lake. The sign for the Upper Spring Creek trailhead will be visible on the left side of the road, about a mile and a half past the intersection of Balsar Gulch Road. There is plenty of parking at the trailhead.

Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower Trail (0.75 mile, easy)


The famous Deadwood Sheriff, Seth Bullock, built the Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower in 1919 as a dedication to President Theodore Roosevelt, his close friend of many years. The best part? You can still climb the tower.  The second best part? It offers incredible views for a short hike.
Getting there: To reach the Mount Roosevelt Trail, travel approximately 1 mile north on Highway 85 to the turn off for The Lodge at Deadwood resort. Turn left as if you were going to the resort but keep right and follow Forest Road 133 approximately .2 miles to the Mount Roosevelt Picnic Area. There is an interpretive sign located at the beginning of the trail.

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Alkali Creek Nature Trail (0.5 miles, easy)


This short hike allows you to walk through prairie, forest and back to Alkali Creek.  Look for butterflies.  Perfect for first time hikers!  It also offers a great view of Bear Butte.
Getting there: Take Exit 34 from I-90 towards the Fort Meade Recreational Area.  The Alkali Creek Trail is also a gateway to the Centennial Trail.

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