Cold Brook Lake, also known as Cold Brook Dam, is a small but enchanting recreation area tucked away in the southern Black Hills. Just outside of Hot Springs, South Dakota, this man-made lake was built (and is operated) by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It offers fishing, non-motorized boating, hiking, and swimming. There are picnic areas, a playground, and a small beach (however, dogs are unfortunately not allowed on the beach).
We followed the signs directing the way to the lake, just north of Chautauqua Park. The first thing we came to upon nearing the recreation area was a sign pointing toward The Overlook. We took a left on a dirt road and followed it a short distance to a large parking area overlooking the lake below. The view was absolutely beautiful.
On the north end of the parking lot was the start of a narrow footpath. Conveniently, a garbage can sat near the beginning of the unmarked trail. We decided to follow the path, viewing the lovely lake just below us. The trail led up a small hill. From the top we could see parts of Hot Springs and the wooded hills surrounding it.
We continued along the footpath as it led us over the hill and behind it. We hiked down the back of the hillside and came to a fork in the trail. It was an unmarked junction with a new path shooting off to the right and a spur leading down to the left. Instead of continuing on the main trail we decided to take a left, which led down toward the lake's edge.
The water was clear blue and cool. After an initial investigation of the lake, the dogs made their way back up the path to where the trail had split. From there we took a right, heading up and over the hill again. We had fabulous views of the lake and the large dam that made up its southern side. We then followed the trail back to the parking lot.
We walked the length of the parking area. At the far end we came upon the dam and a walking path that led out along the length of it. We strolled across the top of the dam, enjoying the beautiful views in all directions.
Forested hills spread out to our left while the stunning lake sat to our right. This was a wonderful place to view the scenery; it was absolutely gorgeous.
The dam came to an end when it met the forested hillside. At its end was a small footpath leading down the hill and to the other side of the lake. We decided to skip this path and instead turned around and headed back across the dam.
The dogs paused here and there to look out over the lake and take in their surroundings. The view was beautiful and the girls really seemed to cherish it.
After drinking in all the scenery from atop the dam, we climbed back in the car. We made our way back down the road and to the recreation area along the lake shore.
There were boat launches and fishing spots, as well as picnic tables spread around the western shore. We parked at the picnic area, which had three shaded tables (although more were located here and there along the water). Across the lake was the Overlook parking lot we had just come from. The unmarked trail we had followed down to the water was now on the opposite side of the pond.
Surprisingly, the recreation area wasn't crowded during our visit. A handful of people were kayaking, and a few more were fishing. We were shocked to find that we had our choice of tables on a sunny afternoon. We chose one near the end of the picnic area.
The dogs were determined to investigate the water prior to eating. We followed a well-worn path down to the shore. Despite its name, Cold Brook Lake wasn't any more frigid than the other lakes in the Black Hills. Under a shining autumn sun the water didn't seem terribly cold; instead it was actually quite nice. This may be one of the smaller lakes in the area but it is also one of the most beautiful. The girls thoroughly enjoyed splashing around in the picturesque reservoir.
After a dip in the lake we headed back to our picnic table. It had a beautiful view of the water and a shade to block out the sun and wind. We settled in for a lovely lunch. The dogs ate comfortably in the shade while taking in the wonderful scenery.
After lunch the girls were eager to walk around and explore the area. We came upon the beach; a sign clearly stated that pets were not allowed there. Like many recreation areas dogs were welcome everywhere except the designated "beach", which was fine. They were having a fantastic time anyways.
Past the sign was a restroom and little fishing pier. From there a short set of steps led up to a small basketball court. Next to that was the playground and more picnic tables. There was no shortage of fun activities at this lovely place.
We left the playground and walked along the gravel road back toward the picnic area. The dogs were determined to have a good romp in the water. They splashed and frolicked in the lake and along the shore to their heart's content.
When they had finally tired themselves out, it was time to go. The girls were ready to call it a day on their wonderful time at Cold Brook Lake, but would love to come back and see more of this beautiful place. It was gorgeous, peaceful, and had everything that we love in a recreation area.
Cold Brook Lake is one of the lesser-known recreation areas in the Black Hills, but that only adds to its charm. The day-use area is open from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, but there is also a small campground for those who'd like to stay the night (while the day-use area is free to enjoy, there is a fee to camp overnight).
This small lake is big on recreation. We all absolutely loved it here and strongly recommend spending a day enjoying the Cold Brook Dam Recreation Area. We certainly look forward to visiting again!