Updated: Jan 10, 2020
Skyline Wilderness Area is a great place for a fun winter hike without leaving Rapid City. This South Dakota spot is popular with hikers and their dogs no matter the weather. The maze of trails provides a seemingly endless combination of pathways to explore.
We started at the southernmost trailhead for The Skyline Trail at Stonewall Overlook, and followed the main path into the park. The spiderweb of trails can be confusing, but the numbered markers help. After a short walk we turned off the Skyline Trail at marker SWA 342 and made our way deeper into the eastern part of the wilderness area.
At marker SWA 380 we followed the trail up and over the hills. We continued along past marker SWA 378 back toward what's known as the Amphitheater East Loop, above Palo Verde Drive. This is the same place we visited in our St. Cloud trip, overlooking the downtown area.
All trails in the Skyline Wilderness Area are connected. Even though we started at the south end of the park we could have walked to the Amphitheater easily, or gone as far as Dinosaur Park on a more favorable day.
After a break for treats and water, we took a left heading back out of the loop past marker SWA 374. This followed the hillside, giving us a great view of the valley to our left. The pathway eventually looped back around the hill to marker SWA 380.
We followed the trail but decided to take a detour at marker SWA 344. We stayed on this path past markers SWA 346 and SWA 348 until we caught back up with the southern part of the Skyline Trail, and followed that back out. In all, our little expedition took just under an hour and a half.
We were able to get in a little trail running, which the girls love. We did, however, have to watch for ice in some places (which is true of any winter-time expedition). The dangers of hiking on a sunny but snowy day are that parts of the trail vary between dry, muddy, or icy. The trick is being extra vigilant about where you're walking and making sure to wear proper shoes for the occasion.
We also recommend checking road conditions before heading up Skyline Drive, as the road itself can be icy and quite dangerous in the winter.
This park is a lot of fun all year-round. When it's cold the trees block the wind, turning a chilly day into a lovely hike.
This is a great place to explore with the warm sun shining above and the cool snow crunching underfoot, all without ever leaving Rapid City.