South Dakota

No Mirage, But An Oasis

November 2007 Feature Viewed 808 time(s)

After hundreds of miles of flat prairie land, the Black Hills of South Dakota might look like a mirage to snowmobilers heading West. The Black Hills are no mirage, they're an oasis-an oasis of snowmobiling for elevation and terrain loving but starved sledders from the flat lands of America.

The Black Hills are the first real mountains (and the only mountain range in South Dakota) sledders from the Midwest see when they head west to ride. While mostly in western South Dakota, the Black Hills do spill over into eastern Wyoming.

Don't think that the Black Hills are popular just with snowmobilers from Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. South Dakotans also have tabbed the Black Hills as their favorite place to snowmobile in the state.

Why? Impeccable trails, decent snow and a history-laden past. The Black Hills have long ranked as one of the best trail systems in the West when it comes to grooming, signage and trail maps.

The vast majority of trail mileage is in South Dakota but part of the system also includes parts of eastern Wyoming. In all, there are 350 miles of groomed trails and numerous more ungroomed paths that can keep you busy for several days.

The extensive trail system can be accessed from numerous parking areas spread out over South Dakota and Wyoming. Trails stretch from Lead, Deadwood and just south of Spearfish in the north to near the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park in the south and from near Galena in the east to close to Buckhorn in eastern Wyoming. All riding is on the 1.2 million-acre Black Hills National Forest. There several places to bail off the trails into powder-filled meadows.

There are lots of things sledders will like about South Dakota's Black Hills. The maps are well designed and there are good accommodations. This is a destination-summer and winter-so services are easy to find. This is also an ideal place to begin your mountain riding experience without being too intimidated. Elevations are moderate, from 3,200 feet to 7,000 feet.

And if you want to plan a few diversions for after the ride, the Black Hills are steeped in history, from Mount Rushmore to Deadwood to Lead.  



South Dakota Tourism

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks 605-773-3391

Road Conditions 866-697-3511 (SD); 888-996-7623 (WY)

South Dakota Snowmobile Association

Groomed Trails 1,613

Number of Registered Snowmobiles 11,691

Highest Point Harney Peak (7,242 ft)

Record Winter Snowfall Lead 324 in.

Coldest Recorded Temperature McIntosh minus-58 degrees F


Black Hills

Elevation 3,200-7,000

Snowfall 140-160 inches

Groomed Trails 300 miles (SD), 40 (WY)

Full-Service Town Lead, SD; Newcastle, WY

Nearest Airport Rapid City (35 miles)

Information South Dakota Tourism 800-SDAKOTA, Lead Area Chamber of Commerce 605-584-1100, Newcastle Area Chamber of Commerce 800-835-0157

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