Along with last week’s post, there is another local trail that the Trekkers frequent, the Flume Loop Trail. It is found off of Boulder Hill Road west of Rapid City. You can reach that road from both US 16 (a little way south of the Rockerville area) as well as off of Sheridan Lake Road. Either direction works, though the Sheridan Lake Road entrance is closer to the trailhead. This is a dirt road, though it is usually in very good condition and can be managed by any 2WD car. (The exceptions to this would be in snow, or occasionally, due to heavy rain.)
The parking lot where the trailhead is found is the same one you use for the Boulder Hill Trail.
A flume is a chute, generally built out of wood, used to transport materials (such as logs or gold) using water. This trail in the Black Hills travels along a former flume route from more than 100 years ago, during the gold rush. Today, it is mostly comprised of a wide, grassy, leveled grade along the hillside, where the original structure once stood. In a few areas, the rotting ruins of the original flume can still be spotted. (On other portions of the trail, you can actually travel through old tunnels in the rock that were created for use by the flume.)
The picture at the top of the post is an example of what a flume would have looked like, NOT specifically of the one in the Black Hills.
The entire flume trail runs for more than 15 miles throughout the Black Hills from Rockerville, south of Rapid City, to Sheridan Lake, west of town. Here, near Boulder Hill, the path forms a loop, and it connects to other portions of the trail.
This is a great trek! It can be completed in either direction, though we usually travel it counterclockwise. (My following description of it will follow that route.) It starts by traversing some lower-lying meadows through the oak and cottonwood trees that grow along the nearby creek . Watch out for cows in this area during the summer months (or more importantly, what they leave behind. 🤥 This is national forestland, and open grazing is allowed here.) Also, during hunting season, I strongly encourage people to wear bright colors when enjoying this area as you’ll be sharing it with hunters.
As you continue down the trail you’ll pass a small, dank-smelling pond that is often covered in green scum during the warmer months. 😝 There are some logs you can use to cross the small stream that feeds from it. Be aware, this area can get VERY mucky in wet times of the year. After crossing Boulder Hill Road, you then make a short climb up a nearby hillside. You are now on the flume bed itself. From here on out, the trail is fairly level, with a few short climbs and descents, and the occasional clamber up some boulders.
The remainder of the trail traverses the pine forest that is more common in the Hills. Sometimes, as you leave the brighter, open spaces behind, walking into these darker, pine tunnels, can seem almost spooky. Not to worry though, the scariest sites we’ve seen here are the local mule deer and rabbits who frequent the area.
This trail is nice because much of it is shaded and in the trees, regardless of the time of day you visit. We have often used it for a quick, evening escape after work, or when it’s too hot to attempt more difficult, or more exposed routes. The early portion of the trek is great in the fall, as this is a more leaf-prone part of the forest. The dusty smells of dried leaves underfoot, mixed with the sounds from the ones still clinging to the trees, that rattle in the wind, with the gurgle of the small creek nearby, make for quite the bucolic, autumn setting.
I would rate this trail as “easy” as it encompasses very little elevation gain. It can be completed in 1 – 2 hours, depending on your speed and ability level, how many stops you make, etc. It is appropriate for children of almost any age, and dogs. Our previous dog enjoyed it, arthritis, bad hips and all, well into the final year of her lengthy life. Our new pup has put her stamp of approval on it as well.
So the next time you’re looking for a family-friendly trail near Rapid City, consider the Flume Loop Trail!
If you’d like to read about the other trails in this series, you can click the links below:
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