Updated: Apr 14, 2020
After a particularly harsh South Dakota February, the dogs couldn't wait to get out in the sun and shake off those winter blues. Luckily, within Rapid City there are 20+ miles of trail beckoning to be explored over at Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park.
The trails were snow-packed with rare patches of ice here and there; pretty good conditions for winter. We parked at and started from the Founders Park Drive Trailhead, and followed the main path up the hill. We passed by the start of the Founders Valley Trail and the Far East Trail, and stayed on the path as it became the Lower Rim Trail farther up.
When the Lower Rim Trail ended at an intersection we took an immediate right, which was the start of the Upper Rim Trail. It had a high difficulty rating for mountain bikers but we found it to be a lovely and charming hike that curved through interesting rock formations.
After a short walk, a fork in the path appeared. We stuck to the left, continuing to follow the Upper Rim Trail (a right led back down the hill). Along the Upper Rim were fantastic spots to lookout over the city below and see South Dakota's Black Hills in the distance. The girls stopped on several occasions to gaze at the lovely snow-dusted scenery spread out before them.
The Upper Rim Trail ended at an intersection, which provided several choices for where to head next. We decided to begin our gradual descent down the hill and took the path on the right, known as Wild Turkey.
The Wild Turkey Trail is divided into 3 sections on some trail maps. The actual trail markers just refer to the entire length as 'Wild Turkey'. Heading straight at that last intersection would have lead us up 'Upper Wild Turkey'. We instead turned onto the middle section known as 'Mild Wild Turkey' which eventually turns into 'Lower Wild Turkey' towards the bottom of the trail.
We passed several other trails but stayed on Wild Turkey as it switch-backed down the hillside. The hike was lovely, winding through the forest and providing the occasional glimpse of the city or nearby hills through the trees.
Midway down the hill the Wild Turkey trail markers turn from black to blue, indicating the start of the last portion (which was a bit easier). This last bit is Lower Wild Turkey, which winds down the hill for about 1,200 feet before ending at the Far East Trail. After stopping on a sunny hilltop to take a water and treat break, we took a right on the Far East. We had made a large loop, and now followed the main path back down to the parking lot.
The girls had a wonderful time. They were so excited to get started that they made eager, joyful squeals as they ascended the initial hill. Much to their elation they spotted large whitetail deer out walking in the park as we hiked. The breeze was a bit chilly but was blocked by the trees for most of the journey.
Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park 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 the conditions allow.
Our trek was easily a mile and a half (round trip). The first part was all uphill but not too strenuous.
This park's trail system makes it easy to pick the right route for the right occasion. On a beautiful sunny winter day this is a great place to go for some exercise and enrichment before the cold settles in again.