We'd been keeping to ourselves lately, and doing our best to avoid crowded places. As such, we had been exploring some of Custer State Park's more obscure trails. An old system (known as 'The Lost Trails') can be found in the area surrounding Center Lake, deep in South Dakota's Black Hills.
On a previous visit we had hiked the trail around the lake, but today we were interested in a path that traversed the hill overlooking it.
We parked on the west side of Center Lake. Across the parking lot was a sign for the Overlook Lost Trail. According to the map, we would be heading into the woods away from the lake. There, we would climb the far side of the mountain before looping around the hilltop. It seemed like a fun hike for a spring morning. After checking out the information, we made our way into the forest.
Bright blue diamond-shaped markers led the way as the sun beamed brightly through the pines. Soon into our hike we came to a fork in the path. A left would take us directly to the overlook via a steep climb up the mountain. We took a right, opting for the longer hike that looped around the hill.
It was a lovely trek through beautiful forest. The smell of warming pine trees filled the air. Along the way, the trail gained elevation.
The path became steep as we made it around the far side of the hill. The last part of our ascent was short but fairly strenuous. The dogs didn't mind at all, and charged up the trail with smiles and enthusiasm.
Once at the top, the distant scenery began to take shape. The Black Hills stretched into the horizon. We kept on, following the bright blue markers along the ridge.
We came upon another fork in the trail. A left would take us down the hill, back to the junction we had passed earlier. We continued straight ahead to the overlook. A short distance beyond the sign, the trail came to an end on a rocky cliff overlooking Center Lake.
This was a remarkable place. The lake sat below us, cradled in the forested hills. We took in the scenery from the overlook; the view was outstanding. The girls seemed thrilled with the vistas and surveyed the landscape excitedly.
The sun favored us as we sat atop the mountain, warming our backs. We were grateful for the solitude of this richly satisfying place. Time became irrelevant as we soaked up every bit of our surroundings.
This was a wonderful spot to be, but eventually the dogs indicated that they were ready to move on. We made our way back toward the marked intersection and took what was now a right turn down the hill.
The descending path was fairly steep, and we made it to the bottom of the hill in a matter of minutes. What would have been an arduous climb up turned into a shortcut on the way down. Soon we were back at the other marked junction near the beginning of the trail.
From there we stayed straight on the path ahead, leading us back towards the parking area. The paved lot came into view through the trees. We were back on the western banks of Center Lake. Opportunities for fishing, swimming, and more hiking lay before us -ready for a day of fun.
The girls really seemed to have a good time on our adventure. The chipmunks darting around the forest made it all the more enjoyable.
The Overlook Lost Trail wasn't terribly lengthy, but it was fairly strenuous in certain spots. The view at the top made every step of the climb worth it. We completed this hike in the morning, and it was a great way to start the day.