Wind Cave is distinctive for its calcite fin formations called boxwork and needle-like growths called frostwork. The cave, which was discovered by the sound of wind coming from a hole in the ground, is the world's densest cave system. Above ground is a mixed-grass prairie with animals such as bison, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs.
I got there a little later than intended and missed hearing the elk bugal much but I did see them on the trail. There were also deer, antelope, coyote, bison and prairie dogs. Signs for the trail at the parking area would have been nice. I nearly missed the small print sign to turn off the 2 track onto the trail. it looked like game used it more than people. Runkeeper said it was 7.6 from where I parked.
I did the Centennial Trail for a short time starting from Badger Hole. It is a lovely hike up and down through the woods. The trail gets very narrow at times, so long pants are advisable. Some parts are rocky. Saw several deer and came up to a 360 lookout point. I recommend this trail if you enjoy hiking through the woods for extended periods, meaning not expecting to arrive at a peak.
Nice hike through the prairie hills. NOTE: trail 4 takes a hard right across a small creek about 1/4 mile in, next to trail marker. Lots of people must miss this (we did) evidenced by clear path through unmarked trail. Fortunately after a mile you do end up at centennial trail. Saw several prairie dog towns and bison. You need to be aware of surrounding as were hiking along a herd of bison came crashing down a wooded hill across the trail and up another hill. They came across trail just 30 yards ahead of us.
Great Hike for the family. The trailhead is easy to find and takes you about halfway up the ridge. I strongly suggest taking the trail up to the top and not the service road. Though it was hazy when we went, we could still see Buffalo Gap. On a clear day you could see the Badlands. All in all a great hike of about a mile.
The elevation gain was about 300'.
This is an easy to moderate trail. It combines the Lookout Point trail (number 4 in the Wind Cave National Park) with the last part of South Dakota's Centennial Trail to form a loop. The trail is easy if you travel counter clockwise -- starting on the Lookout trail. A little over 2 miles in you will descend into a series of small valleys. This is a steep descent going counter clockwise, but a steep ascent going clockwise. The Lookout trail takes you across a stretch of prairie, including through a dozen or so prairie dog communities. There is also evidence of bison activity. If you hike in the early evening, you could run into elk coming down from the hills into the valleys about halfway into the hike. We did not see any elk, but we came across a resting bison and a bison carcass. Just after the Lookout and Centennial trails meet, look for the cave on the left where much of a stream ends up. Also. the trail ends on a short but steep incline. Be alert; while the trail is marked some parts have grown over and/or gotten mixed up with elk and bison trails.
Jerry D. on Boland Ridge Trail
Excellent 2-4 hour day hike for beautiful scenery, wildlife viewing and good exercise. Optimal time to arrive is sunrise for wildlife viewing and to beat the summer sun rays that can be excessive if one waits to middle of day. Follow route map directions carefully because there are multiple animal trails that can lead one off trail course and because NPS sign posts are knocked down. NPS does not bury sign posts in ground, but stick them in a few inches and base support the thin posts (actually thin sticks) with rocks. I found most trail sign posts lying in the grass and spent part of my time sticking them back in the ground and basing them with rocks. Trail is well define, easy to moderate. Only on direct ascent up ridge pass is moderate effort required. Hikers with modest orienteering skills can make this a full day hike by looping north and bushwhacking along the ridge, then down the ridge and back through the grassland to the trailhead. Trailhead road is seen easily from ridge and one could head to road and then walk south to trailhead. One only can loop north because the Boland Ridge trail ends at the South Park boundary where a fence separates public park land from private ranch land. I give this trail a four star rating for beautiful scenery, good chance for wildlife viewing, solitude and long enough to give one good exercise. I do wish the NPS, though, would make this a long day hike of 10-12 miles by looping the trail north, then west and finally south back to trailhead.
This trail was better than we expected. We arrived an hour after sunrise so Wind Cave National Park would be more visible with the sun behind us during the climb. Being lush and green due to alot of rain lately the trail was pretty much non existent. However, we could see the area it climbed up the ridge and just headed out cross country. Once on the ridge, stakes marked the path so it was easy to just walk in that direction without a trail. There were no people, no sounds other then wind, birds and the buffalo! Go early, we saw several elk, coyote, bison, prong horn....
Wonderful mid February hike of 5.75 miles. A little snow in low spots with temperature hovering around 45 degrees. The trail covers deep limestone canyons, heavy forest areas and high prairie. Deer , elk, buffalo, and prairie dogs abound. Entire loop trail took about 2.5 hours of easy to moderate hiking.
Every hike we do in Wind Cave has exceded our expectations. This one is no exception! We hiked about 1/2 way and had a picnic dinner just off of the trail. We did have a close encounter with a buffalo. We avoided him on the return trip by hiking off trail for a short distance. It was in the fall so we finished the hike at dusk. One of my most memorable hikes in the Black Hills.
This is not a long hike or strenuous hike, but the views and the wild life to be seen along the way makes it one of our favorites. We have hiked this trail twice and have always had the entire trail to ourselves. The down side of hiking the loop is that the second side is on a road which leads to the tower on the top, but the views are still good.