At nearly 6,000 feet in elevation, Deerfield Lake is one of the highest bodies of water in South Dakota. Fed by Castle Creek, this lake is prized for its secluded location and quiet atmosphere. It's a popular spot for fishing due to its wake-restrictions (no jet skis here, just slow moving vessels).
The 11 mile Loop Trail around Deerfield Lake adds to the appeal of the area. The lake also boasts 3 campgrounds and 2 picnic areas. All this can be found approximately 20 miles from Hill City (the nearest town), so we strongly recommend bringing along everything you'll need for a day of fun (including plenty of drinking water). Having to run back into town can eat up a lot of time, in addition to being terribly inconvenient (so pack accordingly).
This beautiful woodland treasure is a wonderful recreation area to visit. There is a day-use fee of $4 to use the lake and its facilities (well worth the price).
After a morning spent exploring some of the area, it soon became our goal to find a nice place for a picnic lunch. We found just such a place at the Mountain City Picnic Area on the southeastern side of the lake. This small picnic ground sat on a forested hillside overlooking the lake below. Tables were positioned among the trees. A bathroom sat near the small parking area. When we arrived, people were already enjoying their picnics but we managed to find a great empty table. Surrounded by trees and overlooking the water, this was a beautiful spot for a meal.
However, before the dogs would settle in for lunch they were determined to get into the lake. Lucky for us, a footpath led from our table directly down to the water and to a tiny cove. The girls rushed into the clear cool water without hesitation. They waded around for a bit, taking in the breadth of the lake and hills surrounding them.
After appreciating the beauty of this marvelous place and cooling off in the water, the girls were ready to eat. Maggie made herself at home under the picnic table while her food was being prepared. Ursa was busy surveying the forest for chipmunks and squirrels. Other people came and went as we ate. Even with the light amount of traffic it was still a very quiet and peaceful place.
The dogs made it quite clear that they weren't interested in sitting around after lunch was over -they were ready to go back down to the lake shore. We were prepared; equipped with a beach blanket, towels, treats, and fresh drinking water, we followed the path back down to our tiny private cove.
Other than several dogs swimming with their owners further down the shore, and the occasional kayaker that paddled by, we had this section of lake to ourselves. The water was so clear that we could see the pebbles along the bottom. I decided to wade into the water with the girls -it was actually quite refreshing and I soon understood the appeal. The girls were all smiles playing in the lake. They waded and pranced around in the shallows. They made a game of jumping in and out of the water.
When the cold water made them chilly, the girls sat in the sun on the banks of the lake. Summer flowers bloomed all along the shore. Large birds swooped down and snatched prey from the water.
Once they had warmed up again, the dogs would charge back into the lake. They had a really fantastic time here (we all did).
This was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. It brought me joy to see how happy my dogs were here; they couldn't stop smiling. This was a truly magical place and it was emotionally fulfilling to be here.
After a long while the girls grew tired and were no longer interested in playing in the water. They basked in the sun for a short time before deciding they were ready to go. They declined a final offer to get into the lake before leaving, so we packed up our things and made our way back up the footpath towards the car.
Deerfield Lake is a fantastic place to spend a few hours or a few days. There's no shortage of fun things to explore and do. We can't wait to go back to this secluded lake deep in the stunning Black Hills.