Discover White Gold in the Black Hills When You Snowmobile Here | Black Hills Travel Blog

Discover White Gold in the Black Hills When You Snowmobile Here

  • Black Hills. White Gold. Sledding Breathtaking Spearfish Canyon puts more Magic in Winter
    Black Hills. White Gold. Sledding Breathtaking Spearfish Canyon puts more Magic in Winter
By : 
Tom Griffith

Travel through the Black Hills of South Dakota in winter and discover a wondrous land filled with adventure, wildlife and quiet passages through some of America’s most spectacular settings. Popular scenic drives and hiking trails that are normally crowded in summer often become solitary, contemplative journeys past snowcapped peaks, limestone palisades and ice-covered creeks in winter.

Wildlife found in the highlands in warmer months descends with the snow to the meadows and forested sanctuaries where food abounds. This winter ritual, as regular as falling leaves, allows visitors even more opportunities to view creatures that live in the wild. And more adventuresome winter travelers tend to straighten the skis and hit the throttle in South Dakota for some of the finest snowmobiling in America.

Nowhere else in the U.S. can outdoor enthusiasts find the combination of groomed trails, spectacular scenery and relaxing nightlife that they’ll discover here. And the breathtaking vistas, wildlife and rich history that lure more than three million visitors to this region each summer, quietly await your arrival in winter.

“We are consistently rated in the top five snowmobile destinations in the country for our signing and how well-maintained the trail system is,” said Shannon Percy, district park supervisor for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, who oversees the Black Hills snowmobile trails network. “We really take pride in the number of people coming out and following our trails. They’re easy to follow and they don’t have to be afraid of getting lost and it’s a beautiful way to view the winter landscape.”

Mountains and meadows, backcountry lakes and fabled ghost towns silently sit among towering pines dusted with snow. Winding through this 1.2-million-acre winter wonderland are 416 miles of groomed snowmobile trails developed over the past three decades and maintained by the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks. In the heart of the Hills, snowmobilers can travel all day without ever crossing a highway.

Consistently ranked among the most popular snowmobiling destinations in the U.S. due to its extensive trail network, affordable off-season lodging and entertaining nightlife in Deadwood, the northern Black Hills celebrate the lure of white gold. And, one of the most admired trailheads is found in the heart of Spearfish Canyon, where visitors find snowmobile rentals, a great restaurant and lounge, and an exceptional hotel reminiscent of the great lodges of the West.

Spearfish Canyon Lodge offers lodging packages that include rooms, machine rentals, breakfast and dinner, and even cocktails. Two outdoor hot tubs allow guests to warm up after a day on the trail, while enjoying some of the best star-gazing anywhere.

Its adjacent Spearfish Canyon Adventures offers half-day and full-day snowmobile rentals, complete with snowmobile suits, helmets, gloves and boots. Trail maps, gasoline and expert instruction from Manager Josh Ryan also are available. (For a virtual tour and rental rates, go online at spfcanyon.com)

“In the middle of winter, it’s so awesome and spectacular,” Ryan told me. “You can ride right past Roughlock Falls and the air is crisp, the trees are frosted and the waterfalls are flowing through a sheet of ice. It’s so cool.”

This year, Spearfish Canyon Adventures has 25 brand new Polaris machines on hand as rentals, allowing the novice or the seasoned snowmobiler to spend the day sledding through the limestone cliffs that flank either side of Spearfish Canyon, cross over into Wyoming and take a scenic break at the towering Cement Ridge Lookout, then catch lunch at the Trailshead Lodge or the Buckhorn Bar, before completing the adventure back at Spearfish Canyon Lodge.

“There’s nothing around you all day but nature, and you can’t beat that,” Ryan said.

Percy noted that, for the second year, GF&P’s website offers downloadable, interactive maps as well as access to trail cameras that allow snow-goers the opportunity to view actual snow conditions at Kirk, Hardy Camp near O’Neill Pass, and Savoy near Spearfish Canyon simply by visiting gfp.sd.gov and clicking on “Things to Do.”

So, when cabin fever descends on your household in the midst of winter, consider blazing your own trail with a high-adrenaline rush on a snowmobile through the vast expanses and ponderosa pine forests right in your own backyard. From experience, I can tell you this is the stuff from which memories are made.

About the Author

Tom Griffith is a fourth-generation South Dakotan who studied literature and drama at the University of London before graduating from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. An award-winning reporter, photographer and managing editor at newspapers in Arizona, Montana and South Dakota, Tom also has written or co-authored more than 70 books and his travel features have been published in more than 300 newspapers and magazines from New York to New Zealand.

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