Several cars were already awaiting their owners' return when we pulled into the Fort Meade Recreation Area parking lot. We were just south of Highway 34 in Sturgis, South Dakota. Fort Meade Recreation Area contains over 6,700 acres of wilderness; within it is the 7th Cavalry Trail System, weaving and stretching for miles. This fairly extensive trail network can seem a bit daunting at first. We decided to start at the top and tackle two northern sections of trail during our visit.
Nearly 50 degrees out -not bad for January and perfect weather for some in-city hiking. Our goal was to start at the Fort Meade Trailhead and take Trail #3 (also known as Anthem #3) up and over the hill where it connected with Trail #2 (also known as Sturgis #2). Trail #2 would then lead us down the other side of the hill and into Lions Club Park.
Trail #3 began on the other side of the gravel road running through the recreation area. We checked out the informational signs at the parking lot trailhead, then carefully crossed over to the start of the trail. It was a slightly narrow dirt path that immediately began to make its way up the hill. Bear Butte was visible in the distance as we slowly climbed along the trail.
We continued gradually up the trail, gaining elevation. Along the way we found patches of snow which Maggie happily stopped to roll in. The path was easy to follow. The terrain varied between dry dirt, slush, and snow.
The trail wove its way upwards, following the contours of the hillside. The ascent wasn't too strenuous or difficult, but ended up being a fun hike through the woods.
We followed Trail #3 until it reached its end at an intersection with Trail #2 and Trail #4. Also at the intersection was a large wooden bench. This was a great place to take a pause. We sat down at the bench for a treat and water break. The bench faced majestic Bear Butte, giving us a fantastic view of it. It was an amazing sight to behold while we enjoyed our little rest.
We took in the scenery for a little while before it was time to move on. We left the wooden bench behind and went back to the intersection. The trail marker indicated which way was which. We had just completed Trail #3. Trail #4 continued past the bench and led south. We set off along Trail #2, which would take us down the far side of the hill we had just climbed.
The path led us gently down the mountainside. As we descended we encountered more snow. When it neared the town, the trail skirted the edge of Bear Butte Cemetery. Past the graveyard, the path continued down the hill and eventually came to an end at Lions Club Park. The park's large gazebo became visible as we neared the end of the trail.
A Sturgis Trail System sign greeted us as we entered the park. Below the large gazebo, children were enjoying a small playground as the sun broke through the clouds. A tiny pond sat in one corner of the grounds. We wondered around the park, sniffing things and exploring the area. We could see City Municipal Park (which we had visited just a few weeks earlier) across the street.
The giant gazebo was empty and seemed like a good spot for another little break. We enjoyed water and snacks while looking out over the park. It was a nice place to sit for a few minutes. After a short rest, we were ready for the hike back.
We would be retracing our steps and taking the same route on the return trip to the car. We headed back over to the trailhead for Trail #2 and began the slow trek up the hill.
The giant gazebo and tiny pond disappeared behind us. We approached the cemetery once again and continued past the well-kept grounds. Soon the trail was back in the forest, leading us up the hillside.
We continued to follow the trail as it made its way back and forth up the mountain. The dogs followed the path with enthusiasm, still having a fun time. Before long we had made it back to the intersection with Trail #3 and Trail #4, reaching the end of Trail #2.
Once more, we made our way over to the large wooden bench. We enjoyed another short break, taking in the spectacular view of Bear Butte one last time.
The scenery was fantastic but the girls didn't want to rest long before moving on. After some water and a few photos they were ready to finish the hike. We returned to Trail #3 which would lead us back the way we had come.
We had fun following the gently winding Trail #3 back down the hill. The descent didn't take long, and soon we had made it back to the parking area.
This had been a nice little jaunt up and over the hill. The trail was enjoyable and easy to traverse. The dogs seemed to have a great time hiking to and from the little park. The journey from the Fort Meade Trailhead to the Lions Club Park was less than 2 miles (one way).
Including breaks and time spent at the park, our adventure took about 2 and a half hours. It was a nice little hike for a cool afternoon. We liked the trails and look forward to exploring more of the 7th Cavalry Trail System.