Centennial Trail - Hiking

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About

Summary

The 111-mile Centennial Trail starts at Bear Butte State Park, continues through the Black Hills National Forest, and ends in Wind Cave National Park. The distance makes it great practice for a longer through-hike like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacif...

Written by

Abbie Mood

Distance

0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

42.4 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

There is minimal elevation gain, but the trail is long and there are some difficult sections.

Time To Complete

10 days

Seven to ten days is about average, but you could probably go faster (or slower) if you wanted to.

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

Yes

The trail crosses through some state park/fee areas.

Review

Intro

Built in 1989 for South Dakota's 100th anniversary of statehood, the Centennial Trail is a 111-mile trek through some of the most gorgeous areas in the state. There is minimal elevation gain, but the distance plus the few difficult sections make this a great practice run for longer through-hikes like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. Not just for hiking, the trail is also open to horseback riding and mountain biking. The trail can be hiked in the spring, summer, or fall, but it's best when the temperatures are a little cooler.

What Makes It Great

The Centennial Trail is a gorgeous, 111-mile hike through western South Dakota. The trail starts at Bear Butte State Park, an area long considered sacred to Native Americans. Some still visit the area for religious ceremonies, so you may see prayer bundles or bits of cloth in the trees (please don't touch or move them). The Centennial Trail continues through several recreation areas and state parks, as well as the Black Hills National Forest. 

One of the best things about this trail is the variety of terrain that you will hike across, from pine and aspen forests to green rolling hills to vast, open prairie. There are several creek crossings and scenic views the whole way. It's even possible to see the back of Mount Rushmore from some of the hills. It's unlikely that you will see many other hikers along the way, so take your time and enjoy the adventure. The Centennial Trail ends in Wind Cave National Park, home to one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. It's named after the barometric winds at the entrance of the cave, and features many unique cave formations. 

The Centennial Trail goes through some of the most remote areas in the Black Hills National Forest, which is truly peaceful, but also means you have to be prepared. Give yourself 7-10 days to complete the hike and have time to soak in all the views. There are plenty of spots to pop a tent for backcountry camping.

Who is Going to Love It

Because it's 111 miles long, the Centennial Trail is great practice for longer through-hikes, or even just a wonderful day or overnight hike. There is minimal elevation gain, so it's doable for a beginner distance hiker or someone with more experience who is looking to add up some mileage.

Although it is point-to-point, you can also do it as an out-and-back. There are some difficult sections, so you can either seek them out or avoid them depending on what kind of day hike you are looking for. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The trail is mostly well-marked, but it's a good idea to have a trail map anyway. The map will also show all of the trailheads.

Some of the sections of the trail are remote, so be sure to bring enough supplies. 

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Location

Black Hills National Forest

44.485135, -103.872206

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