Updated: Mar 14, 2020
The Buzzards Loop Trail is a great way to spend an afternoon. As part of the Buzzard's Roost Trail System, it is conveniently located off Highway 44 just west of Rapid City, South Dakota.
We pulled into the trail system parking lot where over a dozen cars were already waiting. Even in January, this is a popular spot on the weekends. Other hikers and their dogs were wrapping up their journeys or just starting out on their paths, and my girls were more than ready to join the fun.
We started up the main trail. After a short distance a marker for a smaller trail to our left appeared. This was the start of Buzzards Loop, and we followed it as it lead to the far eastern side of the system.
Several other trails popped up along the way (including the start of the Jeramy Trail) but we stuck to Buzzards Loop. Rated as "moderate" difficulty, the terrain was not too strenuous as the path gently climbed along the wooded hillside. Trail conditions were pretty good for January, as these paths tend to see a good amount of sunshine.
Along the way we encountered several others hikers and their dogs. This is also a popular spot with mountain bikers, especially on weekends. Even on a weekday there are likely to be others out on the trails (although you're less likely to run into them).
As we gradually gained elevation along the way, views of the hills began to appear. At the backside of the park, the scenery opened up to the Black Hills beyond. A sign indicated a lookout spot just a short distance from the trail.
The detour led to Rogers' Lookout. This trail followed along the rim of the canyon and provided fantastic views of the woodlands spreading out before us. It literally felt like we were standing on the edge of the Black Hills.
There were plenty of great spots in this area to stop for a water and treat break while enjoying the surrounding vistas. We sat for a while, resting and taking it all in until a sharp gust of wind cut across the top of the cliffs. At this point the dogs made it quite clear they were ready to head back into the forest and start down the mountain.
We continued along Buzzards Loop (now heading west) as it meandered through the forest at a fairly gentle pace. These hills were dry for the most part with only the occasional patch of snow along the way -each of which Maggie made a point to roll in, as she loves to do. Ice wasn't nearly as common as slush, which we encountered infrequently throughout the trip.
We followed the Buzzards Loop Trail in its entirety until it ended at a junction. A left (known as the Therapist Upper Connector Trail) leads back to the main path (known as North Buzzard). This can take you to other parts of the park including the Buzzard's Roost Lookout.
A right turn at the junction would take us down a path known as "Stumpy". Although Stumpy was rated as "difficult", we did not find it particularly challenging. It was a fun, fairly short, rocky path (we did have to navigate some uneven terrain). The trail runs alongside and through large cliffs and boulders. The girls and I found this area to be fascinating and very enjoyable.
After a short distance, Stumpy led back towards the main trail and completed the loop we had started at the Buzzards Loop trailhead. From there it was just a short jaunt back down to the parking lot.
This hike was a lot of fun; the dogs and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't far from town but was still very much in the forest. The entire trek was approximately 2.5 miles long and took us about two hours to complete (including a rest break and plenty of pauses for smells throughout the adventure). The trails were well marked, we just had to watch for the markers along the way.
The Buzzard's Roost Trail System is a perfect excuse to get out of the city for a few hours and enjoy the beautiful scenery at the edge of the Black Hills.