Centennial Trail, Elk Creek Trailhead North

In this post, I review the northbound portion of the Centennial Trail from the Elk Creek Trailhead

Small, pine trees cover a mountainside to the horizon


In this post, I’ll be discussing the portion of the Black Hills Centennial Trail heading north from the Elk Creek Trailhead.

Where in the Black Hills is the Elk Creek Trailhead?

The Elk Creek trailhead is located on Runkle Road.  The easiest route to get there is I-90, via the northern portion of Vanocker Canyon Road, south of Sturgis.  The turnoff for Runkle Road is almost seven miles to the south of I-90.  You can also reach the trailhead from Sturgis Road to the east, though the route to get there is longer and will likely require a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle.

What will you see when traveling on this portion of the Centennial Trail?

This trail is quite lovely.  It offers numerous vantage points of sprawling valleys in the Black Hills.  It also provides access to several local summits which give you expansive views of the surrounding area.  In summer, you will notice the lighter, spring-green color of the aspen trees contrasting against the darker, forest green of the ponderosa pines.  In the fall, the contrast is even more noticeable when the aspens turn a bright yellow.

A dog stands on a dirt path that runs through pine trees on a mountainside
Puppers enjoying the hike!

The trail traverses the northern portion of the Black Hills National Forest which features a wetter climate than the southern part.  This allows for more lush and varied vegetation.  Mr. Trekker says the scene reminds him of his childhood days in New England.

You can enjoy the Elk Creek portion of the Centennial Trail almost any time of year

This is a good trail for both biking and hiking as it is wide and well-graded in most places.  In a few sections, it actually follows sections of old fire roads (and occasionally roads that are still in use, so be watchful for other recreators).  This means you won’t find many places with roots that can trip you up or that require lengthy scrambling over rocks.

This is a good trail at almost any time of the year but especially during the warmer months.  It’s fairly shaded (depending on the time of day) so it’s a cooler option when it’s hot out.  There also aren’t many long climbs as it mostly consists of undulating terrain.  I would give this trek an overall rating of easy to moderate.  The moderate portions come in as there are a few areas where the “ups” can get your heart pumping a bit.

Below are a few more pics from the trail (thanks, as usual, to Mr. Trekker for these!):

Purple flower in green grass under a pine tree
The wildflowers are lovely in the Black Hills in the summer!

Small, purple flowers in dirt near a dead, downed stump

Many pine trees stand together under a blue sky
A nice view of the Black Hills National Forest

Have you tried out this portion of the Centennial Trail?  Tell me about it in the comments!


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Small, pine trees cover a mountainside to the horizon. Pin reads, Centennial Trail, Elk Creek Trailhead Northbound."


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6 thoughts on “Centennial Trail, Elk Creek Trailhead North”

  1. I didn’t know what kind of tree Ponderosa was, so yay for the comment above!

    I am glad you can get out into such a beautiful area and the Centennial Trail sounds like a great way to explore more! I hope this summer brings you happy trails! We have *just* started to get back out into the mountains too. It keeps raining, so everything is gorgeous and green… 😀

    1. We could use more rain here, things are starting to dry out. The ponderosa’s are native to this area so they’re all over (we have one in our back yard.) 😃 They actually make decent shade trees.

  2. I always love how open ponderosa pine forests feel compared to our woods in New England. Sounds like a gorgeous hike for a summer day!

  3. Hope you discover some hidden gems close to home since you can’t travel much this year! This looks like a gorgeous place to start 🙂

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