Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Few things pique my dogs' interest quite like asking "Who wants to go for a car ride?" It lights a spark of enthusiasm for the endless possibilities ahead. Admittedly I enjoy a nice car ride as well, and this one is gorgeous.
Leave Rapid City, South Dakota, and head west on Highway 44. For the most part, this stretch of highway follows Rapid Creek. Approximately 10 miles outside of town is the little community of Johnson Siding. This is a great place to stop before you head further into the forest. You'll find a gas station complete with general store -a good opportunity to make sure you have a full tank of fuel, plenty of water, and snacks for the rest of your adventure. They even sell dog food and treats!
Upon leaving Johnson Siding head north on Norris Peak Road. The pristine forest is studded with interesting rock formations on this curvy stretch of pavement. From here you can see Hat Mountain and the road's namesake, Norris Peak. Follow this until it ends at Nemo Road, and take a left (heading west).
In approximately 8 miles you'll come upon the small 'town' of Nemo. After passing through this tiny community turn onto Vanocker Canyon Road. This is the longest stretch of road on our little trip, and is also probably the most striking. Through this area you can catch views of White Mansion Mountain, Flagstaff Mountain, and Veterans Peak (to name a few). Vanocker Canyon Road comes out in Sturgis. Keep following the road and in several blocks you'll run into Interstate 90. From there the adventure is up to you.
This is a great drive for several reasons. First, it is absolutely beautiful from start to finish, and getting out into the woods is good for everybody. The dogs love to see and smell deer, cows, horses, and anything else out there. Their eyes carefully scan the scenery and their noses are out the window, inhaling deeply.
Also, as you drive along this journey you'll pass countless trail heads and dirt roads. There are many places to get out and explore; some well marked, some obscure. The fact is you really can't choose wrong. No matter where you decide to stop and venture out, you're bound to find something wonderful.
Be aware that although this is a beautiful drive, it can also be extremely dangerous in winter conditions. This is an isolated route filled with curves and drop-offs, and people need to be very careful traversing it even in the very best conditions. Thankfully, you'll want to take your time and go slowly on this road anyways in order to enjoy all there is to see.
This is one of the Black Hills' most alluring places to cruise through and explore. There are many isolated and quiet trails, perfect for getting you and your dog back to nature. With so many possibilities, you're likely to come back and keep exploring.