For the final post in my series of easy-to-reach, local hikes I’m going to discuss several “secret” hiking trails that are located off Sheridan Lake Road, just west of Rapid City. (They aren’t really a “secret”, they just aren’t as well-known as other local trails). It is a bit harder to describe how to reach these, as they don’t have signed trailheads (though they do sit right near the road and their parking lots are obvious). I will do my best to give accurate descriptions. All of these routes can be used by hikers, bikers or horses, and are appropriate for winter sports.
“The Stratobowl, the Quiet Side”
The parking lot for this trail is found just south of the Victoria Lake Road/Sheridan Lake Road intersection, where the road makes a sharp turn. It’s really just a dirt turnoff with room for only a few cars. Just past the parking area there is a gate that blocks the old forest road, but you are permitted to walk through it.
This is an easy hike as it just follows an old, fire road on an out-and-back route. It takes you to the cliffs on the northern rim of the Stratobowl, which I’ve discussed before. Be aware, this route has very little shade. As it is so exposed to the sun, it can be a very hot hike when the weather is warm. Also, we have seen herds of big-horn sheep near the cliffs, so if you hike with dogs off-leash, make sure to watch for them.
In my opinion, of the several routes I will be discussing today, this trail offers the best views of both the Stratobowl area as well as the canyon that Spring Creek flows through.
“The Sheep Place”
We call it this because there is a sign near the trail that lables it as a “Big Horned Sheep study habitat” (funnily enough, we have never seen a sheep here 😝).
This trail is located almost exactly seven miles from the Catron Boulevard /Sheridan Lake Road intersection. The parking area is on your left, before you round a curve and see a sign for the Peace Ranch. Right before you reach this parking area you will pass another small, parking lane on the other side of the road. There are trails here, as well, that are mainly used by mountain bikers (though hikers can also use them). They eventually meet up with the Coon Hollow Trail system that I discussed several weeks ago.
This is a great, local trail. We have always enjoyed it as a quick place to take the dog for a walk on a Sunday afternoon or when you just want a quick jaunt on a cold, windy day. It’s also a good place to sneak in a short hike before a summer thunderstorm (we have raced the thunder back from here on several occasions!)
A series of old fire and forest roads offer several different out-and-back options in this area. Be warned, there are no real maps that cover these trails and the roads aren’t reliably signed. On one hand, if you pay careful attention, you shouldn’t lose your way. On the other, if you aren’t paying attention, it is easy to get turned around. Also, the area is surrounded by private ranchland, so it is important to stick to the roads and be respectful of any “private property” signs you may see.
The first old road that breaks off to your left is the shortest of the routes. It will take you to the edge of a cliff on the northwestern edge of the Stratobowl. If you continue past that fork, the next road you come to is longer. It will also, eventually, wind you to the edge of the Stratobowl, but the views aren’t as good as those from the first fork as they are obscured by trees. I have heard a rumor that there may be a way to loop these trails together, but if it exists we haven’t found that route yet.
There is another unnamed trail that continues straight after the second road forks to the left. It eventually works its way all the way down to Spring Creek.
You can’t always access this option as there is a gate that is sometimes closed. I’m not actually sure who controls it (if it is private landowners or the Forest Service). Either way though, if the gate is closed, please respect it and don’t use that route.
This trail is the longest of the three options, and the steepest, as it works its way down the cliff face to the creek, far below. We have yet to complete this entire route but it is on our “to-do” list.
I would rate the first two options as “easy” as they stick to the forest roads and have very little elevation gain. The third is more “moderate” because it wanders into the woods and requires more strenuous hiking when ascending and descending the cliff face. The easier routes are more exposed to the sun, so they can be quite warm in the summer.
The above trails are fairly well known, so expect to have some company on your trek. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews of these many routes found near town. If you’d like to read about the other trails in this series, you can click the links below:
Have you enjoyed any of these trails? If so, let me know in the comments!
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