The Black Hills Travel Blog

Little Elk Creek Canyon

By • Nov 4th, 2010 • Category: Outdoor Adventure

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My friend John has been everywhere in the Black Hills. It seems like every new hiking experience I’ve had begins with John saying “Have you ever been to ….?

Last Sunday was a perfect example. We decided to get outside and enjoy the great fall weather. (I don’t remember a better autumn in the Black Hills.) We talked about Little Elk Creek Canyon. John was surprised I had never been there. “You’re going to love this,” he said.

So we grabbed the dogs and headed north on Interstate 90. And John was right. I did love it.

Little Elk Creek, still flowing on the last day of October, winds through a steep canyon and spills out onto the prairie just north of Piedmont. The canyon is so steep, in fact, that the sunshine barely makes an appearance on the south wall. There we found thick carpet of deep green moss covering just about everything. It reminded me of a Northwestern rain forest, all green and rich.

And everywhere we walked, Little Elk Creek gurgled in the background.

Little Elk Creek Canyon was actually a road once. It must have been a very rough road, because some spots are narrow and rocky. That could be where it washed out years ago. (It was never reopened.) There’s even the bullet-riddled wreckage of an old Model A vintage car in that spot. But much of the trail is covered by a wide, easy-to-walk swath of gravel. I understand you can hike or bicycle all the way to Dalton Lake.

On Sunday, however, we didn’t have time to go all the way to Dalton. Trick-or-treaters were coming, and we had to get back to Rapid. I shot a few photos with my cell phone, and we headed back down the hill. We’ll make it all the way to Dalton next time — unless John turns me on to another great trail.

About the Author

is an on-again, off-again Black Hills resident since 1978. The Aberdeen native hit the road after high school, building houses in Boulder, working oil rigs on Colorado's Western Slope, delivering cars in California. In Wyoming and Idaho, he worked as a newspaper journalist. But the Black Hills kept luring him back. For 18 years, he wrote for the Rapid City Journal. The job gave him a chance to see the Hills from atop Mount Rushmore and the bottom of the Homestake Mine. Whenever possible, Dan grabs his dog Kody and heads to the Hills. These days, he's perfecting the art of low-impact backpacking: hike two hours to a scenic spot, break out the wine, cook up the pasta, watch the sunset and fall asleep under the stars.
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