Skyline Wilderness -Amphitheater East Loop (Alternate Route)
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
There are over 150 acres in Rapid City's Skyline Wilderness Area, and a labyrinth of trails to traverse. The trail system has a seemingly endless combination of paths, and on this occasion we decided to explore a few we hadn't taken before.
We parked at and started from the Skyline Trail trailhead at Stonewall Overlook. Shortly after entering the South Dakota recreation area, we were presented with a choice: left along the Skyline Trail or take a right onto the Amphitheater Trail. We took a right, heading deeper into the wilderness.
Soon another fork in the trail appeared. A right would have taken us down into the Southern Gully Trails. We took a left, following a path that led along a hillside, winding down and around past markers to other paths. This was a decent length of trail and was very pleasant and easy to traverse (like most paths in the park).
Eventually we reached a familiar trail marker -SWA 380. We stuck to the right when the trail forked here, heading over a rocky section of path. We took a left at the next fork, heading up a small hill. We then came upon another familiar marker -SWA 378, which marks the spot where several trails intersect.
We stuck to the leftmost trail until we reached marker SWA 370, where we took a right. This led back to a spot we're very familiar with -the Amphitheater East Loop, which overlooks Palo Verde Drive on the far eastern side of the park. We've also hiked here via the park's St. Cloud Entrance. Indicated by marker SWA 376, this is a popular spot to hike to and take in the views of Rapid City below.
After enjoying the vistas (and a water and treat break) we made our way back along the trail to our left. This followed the backside of a hill on the easternmost border of the park. The path eventually turned west, following the curve of the hill. Below us to the left was the Southern Gully. Whitetail deer bounded through the area, adding to the dogs' excitement.
After making our way around the hill, we reached another intersection. We took a right, heading up and over the small mountain we'd just circled. We caught more views of the city below. Through the trees to our left we could make out M Hill in the distance.
When we came down the far side of the hill, we encountered marker SWA 374. We took a left, heading around the other side of the hill. After a bit, we made it back to marker SWA 370 but had approached it from the opposite side. We managed to thoroughly explore the hill by having gone around and over it. At SWA 370 we took a left, which led back to markers SWA 378 and SWA 380.
We took a left at SWA 380, heading back the way we came. The trail out of the park climbed gradually uphill but wasn't strenuous. It was fun following the terrain up, down, and around the area.
This park provides great opportunities for exercise and enrichment. We spent over an hour and a half exploring the forest without ever leaving the city. This is a fun trail system and hikes can be as long or short as need be.
This wilderness area is popular with hikers and their dogs as well as mountain bikers. Dogs must be leashed but it's for their own safety, as well as being a courtesy to others using the trails. We encountered several people out in the park, but that's to be expected on any given day.