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Topic: Backpacking in the Black Hills< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2013, 1:20 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

My wife and I are going to be in the Black hills in early July and are looking for backpacking suggestions for a 2-3 night trip. We are thinking about the Black elk wilderness around Harney peak, including the Cenntinial trail. Thoughts? Are there good water sources? Other segments of the Cenn. trail to recommend?

Thanks!

Brian


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2013, 2:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

There are several water sources in Black Elk Wilderness: Iron Creek, Grizzly Bear Creek, Pine Creek, Willow Creek, and Nelson Creek. However, most of those water sources are well below 6000 feet elevation. So once you begin to ascend Harney Peak, you may need to carry enough water for until you get back down.

The highest elevation water source along a trail is probably at midway picnic area along Harney Trail #9 between Sylvan Lake and Harney Peak. That is at about 6400 feet, but the water is very shallow and difficult to fill water bottles from (see map crosshairs.) And that trail is a high-traffic area, the most crowded in the Black Hills.

I might suggest parking at Big Pine Trailhead north of Horsethief Lake (see map crosshairs.) From there, hike south on the Centennial Trail and then turn up Grizzly Bear Creek Trail #7. You can camp along trail #7 and near Grizzly Bear Creek at about this location (see map crosshairs.)

On day two, you can climb Harney Peak by following trail #7 up to trail #9. Hydrate well and then fill your water bottles (at least 2 quarts per person) when you leave Grizzly Bear Creek. Don't expect a water source until you return to lower elevations. How you get back down from Harney Peak could make for a very demanding day. But you'll need to descend for water and camping.

You could go further west and probably get water from Nelson Creek along the Lost Cabin Trail #2. A good place to camp in that area is below the Gap Lode Mine (see map crosshairs.) The stream in that area is very narrow, about a foot wide, but generally provides adequate water.

From that camping location, on day three, you need to head back toward your trailhead. You can do that by continuing to follow the Lost Cabin Trail #2 to Willow Creek Horsecamp (see map crosshairs.) You can camp a third night there or continue back to Big Pine Trailhead by following Trail #5 around the North of Elkhorn Peak.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2013, 2:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I just returned from the Black Elk Wilderness.  It rained a fair amount last week, so at the moment, there is plenty of water in Iron Creek and along the lower portion of the Grizzly Bear Trail.  Not too many obvious campsites, but they are around and are close to the water.  

There is also water just off the Centennial Trail on the spur to Mt. Rushmore.  I didn't see an obvious place to camp there but I wasn't really looking either.

There should also be water about a half mile north of Custer State Park on the Centennial Trail.

If you summit Harney Peak, you should also go to Little Devil's Tower and Cathedral Spires.  Trail 9 north of Harney Peak is also really cool and good for solitude and dispersed camping.  In fact, there's an amazing area with enormous rocks and vast views just before trail 9 descends.  No water, but flat for tents and beautiful vistas.

You might also consider French Creek.  There will definitely be water there in July and at least some camping spots.  Possibly bison as well, which you won't find in Black Elk.

Steve


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2013, 2:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Jun. 03 2013, 2:19 pm)
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On day two, you can climb Harney Peak by following trail #7 up to trail #9.

There are a lot of blowdowns on this section of trail.  They're mostly just a nuisance, but plan accordingly.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 03 2013, 4:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

There are also a lot of blowdowns on Harney Peak Trail #9 north of Harney toward Elkhorn Peak. That area has been hit hard by pine beetles. The forest service is working to clear blowdowns from the trails, so it's tough to say how much will be left in early July.

The spur trail to Mount Rushmore (Blackberry Trail) does have water, but it is inside Rushmore Memorial grounds. So it is illegal to camp in that vicinity. No camping allowed inside Memorial borders. (That's a small tributary to Grizzly Bear Creek.)

The water 1/4 to 1/2 mile north of Custer State Park boundary on the Centennial is Iron Creek.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 04 2013, 9:56 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for all the input... greatly appreciated! Other than around rushmore it sounds like dispersed camping is allowed then rather than designated sites?

Again thank you!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 04 2013, 10:03 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You probably already know this, but there's no camping allowed in Custer State Park, so if you're on the Centennial Trail, your options (South to North) are Wind Cave NP (dispersed, free permit), French Creek ($6/person), Blue Bell (frontcountry, $20+), Legion Lake (frontcountry, $20+), and then Black Elk (dispersed, free).

There are 2 horse camps as well, French Creek and Iron Creek.  I don't think you have to have a horse to camp there, but I could be wrong.  No idea of the cost.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2013, 6:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Greetings!

I was thinking of camping and hiking in the black hills late September. However, I am a single female and am aware that the black hills are in cougar territory. Does anyone know whether or not this area is relatively safe for camping/hiking solo? I know some areas such as Yellowstone where they say that you should never go hiking/camping there alone.

Any insights?

Thanks!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2013, 5:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

People generally call them mountain lions around here. But the chances of you seeing one are very small, and the chances of any of them bothering you are even less. If you are accustomed to hiking and camping solo and have the skills to do so, the Black Hills are a fine place to do that.

There are plenty of mountain lions in the Black Hills. It's one of the best mountain-lion habitats in the country. But not once in the 138-year history of the Black Hills has there been a confirmed attack of a wild mountain lion on a human being. That does not mean it is impossible, but it is so highly unlikely that there is no need to worry about them. It is, however, a good idea to understand a few safety guidelines about hiking in mountain lion territory. Below are most of the guidelines you are likely to see:
  • Avoid hiking alone. But if you do, think about how you hike.
  • Make noise to alert lions of your presence especially in areas of low visibility or if you see fresh tracks.
  • Carrying a walking stick or trekking poles could give you extra protection.
  • Never run. It makes you look like prey. Mountain lions have an instinct to chase anything that runs.
  • Don't make quick movements.
  • Avoid hiking at dusk or dawn. And be especially alert if you do.
  • If hiking with a dog, don't allow it to run free.
  • Don't approach a lion's kill, such as a deer carcass. A lion may be near to defend it.
  • Avoid any position below a lion.
  • Give lions escape routes. Don't corner them.
  • Keep your backpack on to protect the back of your neck.
  • Put children on your shoulder or behind you.
  • If attacked, try to remain standing or to get back up.
  • If a mountain lion may be near, don't crouch, sit, kneel, squat or adopt any position that would make you look smaller.
  • Don't attempt to hide, lie down, or play dead.
  • Don't turn your back on a lion.
  • If you see a mountain lion, make eye contact. Lions like to attack when prey isn't looking.
  • If hiking with a group, stand shoulder to shoulder facing the lion.
  • Talk firmly to the lion while moving slowly backward.
  • Make yourself look aggressive and bigger. Raise and wave your arms and open your jacket.
  • Take a firm stance. Convince the lion you are a threat, not prey.
  • If a mountain lion approaches, throw stones, branches or whatever you can reach without bending over.
  • Use pepper spray if available and the lion is within range.
  • If the lion makes contact, fight back, aiming for the head. Lions often break off an attack.
I've hiked thousands of miles in the Black Hills during all seasons, off-trail and on-trail, at night and daytime. I often see mountain lion tracks but rarely see the cat. Here is a trip report I wrote of tracking a mountain lion in winter time.

Camping in mountain-lion country is actually easier than in bear country. That's because mountain lions don't want your food. They won't come sniffing around like a bear would. There are few if any bears in the Black Hills. There are no known resident bears. Protect your food from rodents, but there is very little chance of a large animal bothering it.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


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