South Dakota Centennial Trail Days 0 & 1

Why did I choose the South Dakota Centennial Trail for my next thru-hike?

  1. I haven’t been to the state and like the idea of exploring it on foot.
  2. It is in easy driving distance from Colorado.
  3. I’ll get to see many awesome features in one trip! The Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, herds of buffalo, Crazy Horse, Bear Butte…

Trail Logistics

I am hiking the trail with my sister and two friends. Jenessa & I met at Bear Butte State Park, which is the north end of the trail. The visitor center allows long term parking for thru-hikers.  We parked one vehicle in the northwest corner of the parking lot, as far from the visitor center as possible. From there we took Hwy 385 to the Deer Creek trailhead and picked up the guys.
Continuing south on Hwy 385 brought us to the Wind Cave National Park visitor center. I went inside to say hello and fill out a backcountry permit. It was a short drive from there to Norbeck Trailhead, which is the southern end of the trail. As instructed by park staff, I left the backcountry permit on my dash to indicate long-term parking. We camped near the trailhead on a grassy knoll and played a long board game until 11 pm, late for the trail!

Day 1 of the trail

I woke early with the sun. While eating breakfast, I spotted a buffalo on a nearby hillside. As we broke down camp and packed our gear, a couple more buffalo showed up. One did a back & forth belly rubbing movement then flopped down and rolled around on his back. A couple more walked up the trail beside our camp. I’ve seen buffalo before but never camped among them. I liked the experience!

The first 1.5 miles of trail consisted of multiple wooden bridge crossings of Beaver Creek interspersed with avoiding patches of poison ivy (luckily Brendan identified the plant for us). I enjoyed the limestone cliffs along the creek and found Wind Cave to be a beautiful park. After six miles, we left it and entered Custer State Park. Most of our trail in this park has been on old roads.

The day got warm, but we found a decent creek for our lunch break. Turns out I am good at spotting ticks. None of the ticks were embedded, but Mike had the most so he zipped the bottom of his pant legs on. I saw a couple deer, a snake, and a turkey with six babies. We walked further than planned as the trail is fairly easy and we wanted to camp by French Creek. While fetching water, I saw a crawfish in the creek. Jenessa won best snack award, providing cherries for lunch and a blueberry Stilton cheese for dinner.

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Comments 4

  • Daddy Longlegs : Jul 2nd

    Looking forward to reading about your journey (hope to hike this trail someday soon) and wishing ya’ll safe travels. Crawfish are a sign of a healthy waterway but watch out for those ticks!
    Happy Trails,

    • Emily : Jul 10th

      I highly recommend the trail, it travels through beautiful country and varied terrain. Also, we rarely ran into other hikers.

      Great to know about crawfish! Luckily we caught all the ticks before they bit us and there weren’t too many.

  • El Fuego : Jul 8th

    Very cool pictures, Emily! The trip sounds amazing – waking up to Buffalo doing Buffalo things! Enjoy the rest of your trek. Also – what board game did you play until 11?

    • Emily : Jul 10th

      We played Aeon’s End, which is a challenging cooperative game. It almost seemed too hard, but we played it again after we completed the trail and achieved victory.


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