Discover Solitude and Magic Snowshoeing in the Black Hills | Black Hills Travel Blog

Discover Solitude and Magic Snowshoeing in the Black Hills

  • Discover Solitude and Magic Snowshoeing in the Black Hills
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
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A great way to fight the winter blues is to grab a pair of snowshoes and hit the trail. Don’t have snowshoes? Not a problem! You can check out a pair at Custer State Park as well as at the Mickelson Trail Office in Lead. There are tons of trails to explore, and you are not limited to certain ones when you rent the snowshoes.

I had only gone on one snowshoe hike a few years ago, which was a ranger-led, group hike in Custer State Park. This time I thought I’d strike out with my friend, Kim and my dog, Bourbon. We opted to go to Lead and snowshoe the nicely groomed George S. Mickelson Trail. Kim and I each purchased an annual pass for $15 as we enjoy walking, bicycling and even riding our horses on this trail throughout the year.

We signed out our snowshoes-which are fitted by weight rather than shoe size–at the Trail Office, located at 11361 Nevada Gulch Road in Lead. Loaded with helpful instructions and trail maps, we got back in the pickup and headed down the road to Kirk Trailhead. The trailhead is located a half a mile south of Lead on Hwy 85, then one and a half miles west on Kirk Road.

It was a bright and crisp day. Sunshine peeked through the Ponderosa pines and granite rocks as we laced up, noticing there are a left and a right shoe, and headed out. We chose to take the fork to the left at the trailhead. It followed Whitewood Creek and looked like a pretty route. It’s amazing how quiet the world is when blanketed in snow. Our trail had a very slight incline but was relatively easy to walk and still have breath to talk along the way. About half a mile in I remembered to turn on my exercise tracker. Might as well see how far we go, how many feet we climb and, of course, how many calories we burn – right?! I fancy myself as an active person, but not an athlete. While I did need to rest a few times, I was reminded how easy it is to snowshoe.

Here are a few tips I learned, the hard way. Don’t try to walk backward – it just doesn’t work. Take a wider stance when walking, being careful not to step on your other snowshoe and remember to lift your toes as you walk. The teeth can trip you up if you don’t! It’s best to wear tall boots and/or water-resistant pants, as you’ll kick-up snow on the back of your legs.

After hiking for about 45 minutes, including a few breaks for photos and visiting with others out snowshoeing, we decided to turn around and head back. In the past, I was reluctant to backtrack over the same trail I’d just been on, but eventually realized it’s an entirely different view than to one I’d seen going out. However, in this section, you do have the option to continue on to the Sugarloaf Trailhead then loop around back to Kirk. This is the only section of the Mickelson Trail with a loop, allowing you to park in one place and ride without backtracking. Hiking back, we marveled at the beauty all around us, remarking on how blessed we are to live in an area that offers so much to enjoy and the various ways to explore it.

The return trip to the trailhead was a bit quicker since we were going downhill. As we reached the pickup and unlaced our snowshoes, I check my exercise tracker. We had snowshoed 2 miles, gone up (and down) 98 feet in elevation, and burned over 200 calories (I was hoping for more…).

After returning the snowshoes and having worked up a bit of an appetite, a good lunch was in order. It was a short drive to nearby Lead where we promptly gained back those 200 burned calories.

I highly encourage you to try snowshoeing this winter. If you want a more social experience, with some hands-on instruction, the state offers scheduled snowshoeing events. For dates and information on South Dakota State Park snowshoe events on the George S. Mickelson Trail, visit their website at These snowshoe hikes are a great way to try something new. No experience needed. Snowshoes are provided, but pre-registration is required for these hikes due to the limited number of snowshoes. Make your reservations by calling 605-584-3896. A Mickelson Trail pass is also required; daily ($4) or annual ($15).

Custer State Park also offers snowshoes and guided snowshoe hikes. For dates and information on those events, visit the events page on their website at A State Park Pass is required to enter Custer State Park.

It's a great time to hit the trails and experience a little winter hiking. The Black Hills offers an entirely different experience during this season. Your spirits will be lifted, and the winter blues are sure to disappear once you step into a pair of snowshoes.

Happy Trails!

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