Snowmobiling has really come of age in the Black Hills with the development of a 350-mile network of marked, mapped and groomed snowmobile trails. Although snowmobiling is permitted on most parts of the 1.2 million acre Black Hills National Forest, the trail system has elevated the Black Hills into national prominence as one of the nation’s top snowmobiling destinations.
Most snowmobiling is in the western one-third of the region, where the 6,000-foot elevations develop a five-foot snow pack every winter. The trails lead up through deep canyons, weave through the pine forests and ascend to summit lookouts. The trails also open onto huge, untracked meadows and play areas where the powder-floating is superb! A full—time staff grooms the trails every night, and you can use South Dakota’s Sno-Wats phone service, 1-800-445-3474, to check snow and trail conditions or for some Snowmobiling Info.
There are pit stops, gas, warming shelters, trailheads and good parking throughout the network. And, of course, resorts, local snowmobile service, rentals and guides.
The good word about quality riding spreads quickly among snowmobilers. The Black Hills Snowmobile Trail system ranks in the top ten places to ride in North America, according to editions of SnoWest magazine and SuperTrax International. The system gained special recognition for grooming, signage, maps and services.
For those who prefer places off-the-beaten-path, the off-trail sledding possibilities in the Black Hills are endless. The few places where snowmobiling is not allowed are areas of logging activity, some wildlife winter ranges, most private property and cross-country ski complexes.
The scenery is always wonderful and your sled will take you to secret places that ordinarily are accessible only by foot or by horseback. Keep an eye out for unexpected little surprises, like the frozen draperies in the ice cave west of Deerfield, frozen Roughlock Falls or elk that vanish, like magic, into the aspen groves.
Officially, the snowmobile season opens on December 1, when deer hunting season is over. However, the Snowmobiling Trail grooming starts Dec. 15. Make sure that you check out theSnowmobiling Map before heading out for the day.
Didn’t bring a sled? That’s okay. With a fleet of more than 200 rental machines available in the Black Hills, finding a sled to suit your riding ability and your pocketbook is easy. Full riding gear is also available. Expect new machines in top running condition, and choose from Arctic Cats, Polaris and Ski-Doo single or double sleds. Snowmobile rental prices range from $75 for a half day single, up to $149 for a full day on a double.
All machines operated on public lands or on any part of the trail system must be licensed in either South Dakota or their home state. Unlicensed out-of-state snowmobilers can purchase a temporary 5-day S.D. license for $40 at most pit stops, county courthouses or other license agents.