As you pull into the parking lot, the Chapel in the Hills commands your view as it appears on its perch, positioned against the hill, dominating the surrounding landscape.
It took seven years of living in the Black Hills to finally visit this unique structure, located just outside of Rapid City. My parents were visiting the Hills and we were seeking a nearby location for a quick visit their last day in town. To reach the site, take Route 44/Jackson Boulevard west, out of Rapid City, and then take the first left, past Canyon Lake Park, for Chapel Lane. Stay on Chapel Lane until you reach the gate. There are a few jogs in the route and several roads branch off, so be watchful (there are signs, though a few are small). The chapel is located about 1.5 miles from Canyon Lake Park.
As an aside, if you’ve never visited Canyon Lake Park, I recommend it. It’s a perfect place for a picnic, to walk your dog or take a jog, and at night, the path is subduely illuminated. Just be wary of the MANY geese and their “leavings”, especially on the island in the middle of the lake. 😝
The drive to the chapel traverses a lovely, tree-lined, residential area complete with the 1960’s architectural style that is common to the west side of town. I’m regularly, pleasantly surprised by the picturesque, residential areas around Rapid City; not to mention the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside that they bestow–in this case, views of the Hills.
The campus is cool! The chapel, an ELCA Lutheran church, is modeled after a Norwegian stave church (the Borgund stavkirke, of Laerdal, Norway, that was built in the 12th Century), in honor of the Norwegian Lutherans that settled the area. There is also a small visitor’s center that dons a traditional, grass roof that was built in Norway and shipped to Rapid City. The site also sports a small museum showcasing what life would have been like for the church’s parishioners at the time it was built.
Weddings are held here and evening vespers occur, nightly, during the summer months. You can visit the website here. There is no cost to tour the site, though donations are appreciated.
The architecture is incredible! Intricate wood carvings adorn the walls of the church, both outside and in, and the russet-colored wood contrasts with the vibrant green of the surrounding lawns, the azure blue of the sky and the sun-dappled trees of the forest backdrop. Flowers of various types colorfully frame the chapel and dot the beds that encircle it while butterflies flit about and bees sip the nectar from the russian sage flowers. The musty aroma of old wood tickles your nose, while bird chatter surrounds you; the gentle breeze sighs through the boughs of the the trees and dry leaves crackle as they are swept past.
A short, peaceful, meditation/prayer path, complete with small, marble statues, traverses a ravine whose towering slopes frame three of its sides in the forest behind the structure. I LOVE this place! It is so beautiful and peaceful! It makes for a perfect location to meditate, pray or just relax. For someone who is spiritual but also delights in nature, it makes for the perfect fusion between the two. It’s an incredibly tranquil, mystical experience. Here, my soul is at peace.
Pics of the Chapel in the Hills are below:
If you’re looking for a unique, family activity, close to Rapid City, check this location out, I know I’ll be returning!