If you’re looking for a simple, nearby trail, optimal for a quick hike that also offers spectacular views of the hills and a local historical site, check out the Stratobowl Rim Trail! Upon perusing my posts recently I realized I’ve neglected to review this popular location. Being that this was one of the first hikes we completed upon moving to the Black Hills and one we frequently enjoy, I don’t know how this skipped my notice, but I shall correct this oversight forthwith!
The Stratobowl is a great trail for a short hike. It’s only a few minutes outside of Rapid City and, at around one mile each way, it’s amenable to almost any skill level. It also showcases some unique local history. It’s located off of Route 16, about a half-mile south of Old McDonald’s Farm. There’s no roadside sign highlighting the trail, but there’s an obvious parking area and, if you’re there during daylight hours, it’s likely you’ll see other vehicles.
The path is comprised of simple, rolling hills on an old access road that traverses through pines and offers a prime opportunity for spotting deer and wild turkeys. A substantial logging operation was recently completed there (necessitated by pine beetle damage) so chances of viewing wildlife are now even more likely. At the terminus the road opens onto the rim and the yawning chasm that is the actual Stratobowl. From here, a valley formed by Spring Creek spreads out before you with homes dotting the floor and vultures soaring the thermals…below you! It’s also a prime place to watch the sun setting over the expanse of the Hills (and being so close to town it’s convenient for an evening hike). The name stems from the bowl-like shape of the valley created by the surrounding terrain. The north side of the rim can be reached from several other trails/old logging roads off of Sheridan Lake Road to the north (I’ll highlight these in future posts).
This setting was the site of high-altitude, manned balloon flights that took place in the 30’s (there’s several monoliths on site detailing these); it also currently hosts an annual hot air balloon launch. Be aware, you may hear the haunting sound of howling wolves when hiking. Do not be alarmed though, wolves are not usually found in the Hills and those you hear are safely contained at Bear County, just a few miles away.