Skyline Wilderness -Unmarked Trails of the Southern Gully
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
The southern edge of the Skyline Wilderness Area is perhaps the most rugged part of the park. Unmarked trails weave through deep gullies, creating a small maze. Some paths are so deep in the ravine that they barely see sunlight. The trail conditions on a South Dakota winter day can range from dry to snow-packed to solid ice. We had to watch our step carefully, as several paths in this section were a bit slick.
We parked at and started from the Skyline Trail Trailhead on the south end of the Rapid City park. We took a right onto the Amphitheater Trail and then another right onto an unmarked trail. From there we explored the random intersecting pathways of the southern gully. These paths led through deeply forested areas where we crossed several small wooden bridges over frozen streams.
The unmarked trails made it confusing to navigate the area. I simply let the dogs lead the way through the mini labyrinth, choosing the paths they found most enticing. After a bit of exploring we inadvertently ended up making a loop through the woods. We emerged from the gully near the same place in the park where we had originally gone down into it.
The trek through this wild terrain was thrilling for the girls. I can only surmise that there was a treasure trove of smells, as they were furiously sniffing everything along the way. With their added enthusiasm we had to be extra cautious; there were patches of ice here and there along the way as we went.
The Skyline Wilderness Area is a fine place for a quiet walk in the woods without actually leaving the city. It provides a good opportunity for enrichment and exercise, and the trees keep the wind out on chilly days. The only problem is the unpredictability of trail conditions. One should use caution during the winter months -a path may seem clear but have a solid patch of ice waiting around the next corner. Its up to each individual to use their best judgement (or their dog's) and try to choose the safest paths available for that day's adventure.