Everything You Need to Know about Cross-Country Skiing in the Black Hills | Black Hills Travel Blog

Everything You Need to Know about Cross-Country Skiing in the Black Hills

  • Everything You Need to Know about Cross-Country Skiing in the Black Hills
    Everything You Need to Know about Cross-Country Skiing in the Black Hills
Thursday, February 10, 2022
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Skiing doesn't always include the lift, busy mountainsides or the long lines. Just like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing can get you out on the snow to explore local trails and parks in the winter. 

Cross-country skiers can enjoy views with frosty pine forests, glimmering mountains and quiet trails, all while getting a winter workout. And with nearly 6,000 miles of abandoned railroad grades, logging roads and fire trails, there are few limits for skiing destinations in the Black Hills. 

Where to Go

Cross-country skiers can travel across many trails, however, there are many areas reserved especially for cross-country skiers in the Black Hills.

  • Big Hill cross-country ski network outside of Spearfish in the Northern Hills is a complex of six ever-widening loops. In all, are 16 miles of marked, mapped and groomed trails available to skiers. 
  • Eagle Cliff network outside of Lead and Spearfish is more challenging with 25 miles in total. The snow is typically deep and powdery here and you’ll likely be breaking your own trail. 
  • The Rimrock Trailhead near Spearfish includes two loop trails and a spur trail that connects to the Old Baldy Trail, for a total of 7.2 miles. With meandering trails and scenery dense with aspen, birch and pine trees, it's a rewarding set of trails.
  • The Deerfield Lake Loop is a 10 mile trail that surrounds Deerfield Lake. To the south, the trail winds through areas of tall pines and small meadows.
  • Beaver Creek ski network near Custer has six trails with a total distance of 12.9 miles. Skiers are advised to use caution on the Mallo Trail, as it is a groomed snowmobile trail.

For more trail recommendations, take a look at the Black Hills National Forest's complete, up-to-date list of cross-country skiing trails, or check the Eagle Cliff Ski Association website. 

What You'll Need

Winter temperatures in the Black Hills can be fickle, typically ranging anywhere from negative temperatures to 40 degrees. For this reason, cross-country skiers in the region are encourged to dress in multiple layers. You may be chilly when you start skiing, but warm up as your heart rate goes up later. To avoid sweating and possible hypothermia, wear multiple layers with moisture-wicking fabrics that you can easily strip off on the trail to maintain the perfect body temperature.

In addition to your equipment (skis, boots, poles and a pack if you need it) and your warm layers, skiers are recommended to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks and potable water. Sunscreen and sunglasses can be vital to protecting your skin and eyes from the harsh glare of the snow. Even on overcast winter days, the sun can do a lot of damage to those without protection. Snacks and water are recommended for excursions longer than 30 minutes, especially if you will be far from nearby towns. Stream water, snow and ice along trails is not potable and should not be consumed.

If you need to pick up equipment while you are in the Black Hills, we recommend stopping at South Dakota Outdoor Shop in Custer.

Take it Slow

Enjoy the isolation of winter in the Black Hills and take in the sights and sounds that the mountains provide. While getting out and trying something new in a new place is always a great thing to do, seeing the area in a unique light is the best part of the excursion! Bring your phone or camera with full battery and take breaks along the trail to capture the moment. Be sure to share your photos to our Fan Photo Friday contest or tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #DiscoverBlackHills to be featured.

For more ways to explore the Black Hills and Badlands, take a look at our Outdoor Recreation page.