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(Horsethief Lake, Centennial, & Stockade Lake Trails)



This entry is a continuation of the previous one.


When I got to the Centennial Trail I turned left and followed it south for another 1¼ miles, gaining more elevation to 5,600 feet.

Those are the Forest Service trail numbers, not miles.

This part of the trail is generally smoother but also had some rocky spots. Horses are allowed on the Centennial Trail. Bikes are allowed on some parts of it but not within the wilderness boundaries.

I really enjoyed all the tall spires and other granite formations visible on this part of the trail:




On my way back to the lake I also checked out a quarter mile of the Centennial Trail going northwest but I didn’t see any more rock spires so I turned around.

The Centennial Trail runs 111 miles through the Black Hills from Bear Butte State Park in the north to Wind Cave National Park in the south. It was built in 1989 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of statehood.

Above and below:  The Centennial Trail has a nice mix of pines and hardwoods, too.

I've hiked several miles of the Centennial Trail at Wind Cave National Park previously and would like someday to hike the whole length of the trail.

Cody and I walked about 4½ miles on these trails at and near Horsethief Lake. Elevations ranged from 5,200 to 5,600 feet with a lot of ups and downs. I recommend other hikers check out these trails if they're in the area. The lake is also a good place to fish and camp.


I drove the little dirt road back to SD 244 and stopped at two turnouts on the highway to take more pictures of Horsethief Lake (shown on the previous page). 

Here's another map section of this part of my route this morning. This one is from an interpretive panel at Willow Creek ("Your Are Here"):

I continued west several more miles on SD 244 to Willow Creek Campground, which appears to be mostly for equestrians:

Two trails begin here and connect to other trails in the Harney Range:

SD 244 ends at US 16. I turned south for less than a mile to SD 87 AKA the Needles Highway, which I drove a few days ago. In a few miles this narrow, winding road enters Custer State Park.

Here's one of those skinny tunnels again and a fun photo looking back at the scenery:


My 7-day park entry sticker was still good today so I didn't have to pay again. I was in and out of Custer State Park property several times today on my circuitous driving route.

Soon I turned south on SD 89. I don't think I've been on this road before. I drove out of Custer State Park into National Forest Service territory again, where I saw five longhorn cattle grazing near the road:


The longhorns were one of several nice surprises I had today.

I turned left onto US 16A just east of the town of Custer and drove a couple miles to another entry station for Custer State Park. I bypassed that one, too, since I already paid the fee. In a few miles I came to my next destination, Stockade Lake:

I stayed on the highway this time to the eastern end of the lake instead of following the little loop road that Jim and I cycled a few days ago. 


I turned on the loop road at the far end of the lake and parked at the trailhead for a 1.2-mile loop above the lake. It's called simply "Stockade Lake Trail."

Elevations on this loop ranged from 5,200 feet to 5,611feet. The trail is steeper up and down than the more gradual Horsethief and Centennial Trail sections I hiked. 

Although some parts of this trail were pleasant it wasn’t nearly as scenic as the trails I hiked earlier today – fairly rough surface, no views of Harney Peak that I could find, lots of dead trees cut down and not stacked up as they are in other parts of the state park.

Here are some pictures as I hiked clockwise around the loop, ending on the beach:




When I was about two-thirds of the way around the loop I could see the lake from the trail:


Then we descended to the beach and Cody got to swim in the lake before we resumed driving:




Next entrythe rest of my scenic drive through Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park, including lots of wildlife and bison photos

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil