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Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park Trails -Dark Forest

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

The weather isn't going to hold out for long (snow seems imminent), and this window of opportunity must be taken advantage of. The temperature is decent and the dogs are itching to get out before a storm hits. This time of year any chance to get outside and explore must be seized. The 20+ miles of trails at Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park within Rapid City, South Dakota, happen to be a great location for winter hiking.

A nice uphill trek to burn off some pent up winter energy seemed like the right choice for our occasion. We parked at and started from the Founders Park Drive Trailhead. We followed the main trail up the hill on the eastern side of the park. We passed by the start of the Founders Valley Trail. Farther up the hill we took a right onto the start of the Far East Trail. This path was slushy in places -a small price to pay for this rare warm day in early March.

After a short hike along The Far East we came upon the start of the Dark Forest Trail on our left. This trail led up through the trees, climbing the hillside. In some places the trail passed between protruding rock formations. Its wasn't too difficult but was by no means a leisurely stroll either.

The Dark Forest Trail wound up the hill through a lovely section of forest. It would be easy to forget that you're in a South Dakota metropolis if it weren't for the views of the sprawling city that pop up along the way. The girls seemed to enjoy the glimpses of town below, and stopped periodically to enjoy the vistas.

The Dark Forest Trail provided access to several other routes in the system including the Upper Rim Trail. We followed Dark Forest until its end at Mild Wild Turkey. There, we took a right heading back down the hill.

After about 1,000 feet the Wild Turkey Trail runs back into the Dark Forest Trail. We took that back down the hill to the Far East Trail, creating a nice loop.

This journey was roughly a mile in total but trekking up and down the hill was good exercise. This was a fun, nice change of pace from a normal walk in the park. The dogs had a great time on their hike, stopping frequently to sniff everything of interest along the way. Some stretches of path were even clear enough for a little trail running, which the girls absolutely loved.

This is a great place to shake off the cabin fever. We do not, however, visit here during the warmer months due to rattlesnakes. There are actual warning signs upon every main entry into the park, and I can personally attest to having seen one (it slithered across my path in the summer of 2017). We only hike here in cooler months, when conditions allow.

This was a beautiful winter excursion. The views from above Rapid City made the snow-dusted scenery extra special.

On this day we could have chosen a longer adventure, but a sharp breeze made it so a shorter trek was in order. That is one of the best things about Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park -the ability to customize your hike. There are so many combinations of connecting trails it's very easy to tailor a route to fit weather or time constraints.

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