At 23 total miles long, this trail can be accessed by several trailheads. It begins at Deerfield Reservoir (there’s a spur trail that actually circumvents the entire lake), crosses the Mickelson Trail at about the halfway point, and eventually, spans all the way to the Centennial Trail near Pactola Reservoir. It traverses canyons, meadows. valleys and ridges. Sites that housed old mining camps (and some still-operating sites) and the occasional remnants of an abandoned homestead dot it’s course. This includes one squatter’s paradise that was built directly into the rock! Tailings from old mining sites, remnants of ramshackle cabins and numerous stream crossings–often with charming, simple, log bridges–are scattered throughout.
The canyon portions of this route are similar to those of Rimrock Trail in Spearfish Canyon, the Elk Creek Trail near Sturgis (that will be reviewed in a later post), and the ridge sections are reminiscent of those found in the Eagle Cliff and Big Hill areas in the northern Hills. The canyons are especially gorgeous in fall as the never-ending green of the spruces, that blanket the canyon walls, contrasts with the yellow and orange of the aspens and red of the plants that frame the creek.
The trail is open year-round, for various activities, including horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing/cross-country skiing, depending on the time of year. Large portions of the route follow old logging and forest roads that are wide and well-graded–some are still in use at certain times of the year–so travel is often smooth. While the entire route could be completed in one attempt with an overnight trip or a VERY long day-trip (if you had a car or shuttle at each end), it is usually conquered in sections (as the Trekkers are attempting). It should be noted that some of the trailheads may be difficult–or impossible–to reach in the snowy months (at least with a typical, road-worthy vehicle). The elevation grade for this trail is moderate compared to many of the, other, longer ones in the Black Hills. While some sections will get your heart pumping, many consist of scenic, tranquil afternoon hikes in the woods.
This is another trail system that crosses multiple eco-systems, similar to the trails that traverse the rim of Spearfish canyon (watch for an upcoming post regarding these as well!) The canyon sections are lush and green, while the ridge sections are comprised more of a drier, arid prairie. The most recent trip we took on the Deerfield Trail even comprised a variety of weather depending on which side of the mountain you found yourself. We started off in sunny, blue skies, veiled with wisps of cirrus clouds. By the time we reached the ridge line, a cold breeze was blowing and darker, heavier clouds had moved in. After a quick lunch, we retraced our steps and returned to a warmer, sunlit forest.
One of the best features of this trail, for myself, is its solitude. Some portions are more heavily traveled than others–namely the canyon sections–but often times you’ll find you have the trail to yourself (especially in the colder months). It’s not unusual for the only evidence of others having used the route, aside from yourself, are the deer, elk, coyote and often, mountain lion tracks–usually following the deer tracks! 😳–that remain in the mud or snow. Don’t be surprised if you see the flag of the white-tail deer flying high as they dash out of your way as you traverse the trail.
Some pics from our day on the trail:
If you’re looking for a peaceful, casual hike through some beautiful countryside, consider giving the Deerfield trail a try!