Horsethief Lake Trail (dayhike)

SA Report: Unstuck in time

Trip Date: 8/22/2017

Location: Black Hills National Forest, Black Elk Wilderness

Permit/Pass: None

Trail maps: 

Directions: From Interstate 90 in Rapid City South Dakota take US 16, then US 16A, south for 27.9 miles through Keystone. Continue straight on SD 244W (US 16 turns south again) and drive 4 miles, passing the signed entrance to Mt Rushmore NM and winding to the northwest down to a left turn onto the gravel road leading down to Horsethief Lake. There is a small pullout on the left side of the road after a tight right turn where you can park. The trailhead is back up the road a few yards. Farther down, there is more parking and restrooms.

Synopsis: A very lush and pretty hike through some beautiful country. You have to climb a bit before the canopy opens up and you get a look at some of the surrounding geology. The destination of this hike is a rock outcrop with some terrific views to the south.

Trail sequence: Horsethief Lake Trail (Trail #14) / Centennial Trail (#89) / Horsethief Lake

Type: Out and back

Distance: 3.5 miles

Elevation: Min. - 4928', Max. - 5525'


Rating: Easy-Moderate (factors: )

Notes: The trails in this area are referred to generally by number. Be cognizant of the fact that when you're looking at the map at the trailhead, and sometimes even the trail markers, you may be looking at trail number rather than mileage.

Track: Horsethief Lake Trail - Black Hills NF: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- Depending upon where you've parked, walk back up the gravel road a few yards (or more than a few yards) and take trail number 14 - Horsethief Lake Trail.

  -- At about three-quarters of a mile you come to a junction with the Centennial Trail (#89). We took this trail for a bit, thinking about trying to loop around and down to Horsethief Lake. Eventually, though, we decided to go for some better views of the countryside by climbing higher (also we figured if we completed the loop we'd have to return by the road and that didn't seem too fun). So we returned to trail number 14 and continued to the southeast.

  -- Another half mile of gentle ascent brought us to a rocky outcrop on the left. As the trail appear to be leveling out we decided to climb around the back of the rocks and try to get on top. Here we found some amazing views of the Black Hills and Custer State Park to the south and east. This is a good spot for a break and food.

  -- Return to the trailhead the way you came, remembering not to take the left at the junction with the Centennial Trail.

Photos: Flickr