The Centennial Trail

Rapid City, South Dakota 57709

The Centennial Trail

The Centennial Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"The Centennial Trail has a lofty beginning and magnificent ending. If one proceeds from north to south, the trail begins at Bear Butte and Bear Butte Lake, where Crazy Horse presided over a Council of Nations that was determined to protect the Black Hills from outside encroachment.

The trail ends in Wind Cave National Park, an area best known for its subterranean features but equally touted for its rolling prairie features that host many natural dramas that have their pinnings in grass."

The Centennial Trail Trip Reports

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5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
7/10/2018
Depending on where you start and end on the trail, which is 111 miles long, you can see a lot of diverse landscapes and lots of wildlife. There's also a lot of creeks and streams along the way. If you're looking for an extended hike and camping trip, doing the whole trail takes about 2 weeks.
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3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars3 out of 5 stars
3/17/2017
https://www.facebook.com/CentennialTrail89BlackHillsSouthDakota/

Quite a bit of information here.
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5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
5/23/2011
I wanted to post this review to highlight a couple of issues I found with the Centennial Trail. It has been modified and is now closer to 104 miles long. It no longer goes to the top of Harney Peak ( I suggest a side trip). The warnings I would like to give are about the creek crossings in May. It happened to be a very wet season in the Black Hills this spring. In total there are about 15 or so major creek crossings.The crossings were chest high and the water was running extremely fast. Most of it is marked very well. If you start down a road and havn't seen a trail marker within 500 yard you are likely took a wrong turn.GPS coordinates are very helpful especially between Pactola Lake and Shridan Lake. I spoke with the Forest Sevice and they did say they had been out replacing markers. Water was plentyful but in July and August the creeks can get pretty dry. Don't pass up a water supply without topping off. You can camp with zero trace almost anywhere. The only places off limits are the Black Elk Wilderness area and Custer State Park. You can only camp at designated campsites in Custer Park and there are no tent sites available. I suggest breaking the rules or continuing on the the French Creek area where camping is allowed. Stay out of site of the trails and you will be fine. Campfires are generally not allowed. There are very few flat areas of the trail. You either climb or decend all the time. I have done it twice and found it easier to go from North to South versus South to North. The best and most scenic part of the trail is from Big Pine trailhead through the Black Elk Wilderness area. Incredible. I suggest a side trip to the top of Harney Peak as well.
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4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
1/15/2011
ok first off this is a pretty hard trail to cover you start off at bear butte mountain and end 111 miles in edge mont south dakota if this is your first trek across the black hill i would say take the Michelson Trail that is well marked .
when on the centenial trail you will find even with the best maps you will be lost if you not good with a compass water is an issue during the hottest parts of summer alot of the stream will dry up take at least 4 quarts of water per being thee may be treks of 10 to 12 miles with no streams good luck and enjoy the black hills
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5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
5/19/2009
Did someone get GPS coords for the trail. If so would you be willing to share?
hankslapsaddle@hotmail.com
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5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
4/3/2003
I bike the centennial trail often.I guess I never thought of it as the kind of trail that would eat you up like the other reviewer.I guess you best come prepaired.It is 10-12 miles between Th. there.The section the other guy is talking about is really a hoot,if you ride it the other way.He clumb up into the black hills from the surrounding prairey by Bear Butte.Now heres the skinny on the trail.If traveling by the hills on I-90 just stop in Spearfish,take the Black Hill State University exit,and head into town.On your left hand side of the street will be the Two Wheeler Dealer or ACME Bikes at the corner of Canyon Lake drive and Hwy 44 in Rapid City.The guys there are bikers that all know the Centennial and the many other trails in the area.There is a section that is easily reached from the interstate near Sturgis,the th. is just about a 1/4 mile off the interstate.Turn off at the National Cemetary exit and follow the road to the Alkali creek campground and Trail head.You can ride it as an out and back from there.You can also shuttle to that spot by getting dropped off at the Elk Creek Th.Located just off the road to Nemo out of Sturgis and riding the 3 mile climb and 8 mile downhill section back down to Alkali Creek Th.The trail there is easily followed and marked by the trail 89 markers. mtbr.com has many reviews on this trail.the whole thing is 111 miles long and is the best trail in the state for a ride of epic proportions.Just dont go point to point without a personal discussion with someone that knows this trail.Most if not all of the trailheads have lakes or streams next to them,with camping.Shes the real deal and "should not be passed by" when traveling thru South Dakota.
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1 out of 5 stars1 out of 5 stars1 out of 5 stars1 out of 5 stars1 out of 5 stars
8/1/2002
Both my wife and I started to hike the Centennial Trail. We purchased the best, most detailed maps the Ranger Station in Custer, SD had.
Starting at Bear Butte, the trail was fairly easy, considering you start at the trail head at almost 5000 feet.
The trail is marked with plastic slats stating that the trail is "Trail 89". As the grasslands around Bear Butte are filled with cattle, you can guess what happened to most of the markers. The cattle love to rub themselves on most anything. They love the plastic trail markers too, which means most of them were broken off at ground level.
The first day we made quick progress, reaching the first marked campground which also had water and picnic tables. Very comfortable. The next day, I studied the map and saw that I would have four switchbacks to traverse as we climbed into the Black Hills. It showed an 11.8 mile section to a trailhead, followed by a 10.something mile section to the next campground. A 22-23 mile hike was very possible according to one of the two $10 maps I had to buy.
We packed our gear and stepped off for what would be a beautiful day of hiking.
In five hours of steady walking, we must have hit 20 or more switchbacks. We would desend a few hundred feet only to assend a few hundred feet around the next bend. There was no way to pin point our location on the map, as there were no visable landmarks. We crossed and recrossed dry stream beds all day long. Five hours into our hiking, my first three liter camel back was empty. After our eighth hour, my second three liters was gone. My wife had been refusing water, saving it for me, as I was carring most of the weight. I finally caught on to what she was doing, and also realized she was going into the first stages of heat exhaustion. We still had not completed the first 11 miles of our hike.
Considering all the factors I was facing, I decided to call an end to our hike as soon as possible. We were miles away from anything. We had not seen one drop of water since we left our campsite. The map was totally useless in that particular section.
Just as we came upon a gravel road that pin pointed our location on the map, I heard a vechile moving below us on the hill. I yelled out, and got the vehicle to go back to the trail head which was only a mile ahead of us. We caught a ride into Nemo, SD and made it back to our own car.
I learned alot of lessons on this hike, which should be obvious to everyone. As it was my wife's first hike with a pack, I tried to keep her pack weight down to 15-18 lbs. This caused me to carry alot more weight than I planned on. Her decision to accompany me was a last minute one.
I carried three different means to purify water, all of which were useless, as there was no water.
I had gathered all available information on the Centennial Trail I could get my hands on prior to heading out. The maps I obtained from the Rangers were worthless, as was the advice they were able to offer.
I was told in Nemo that the part we hiked the second day was the worst part of the Centennial Trail. I was also told that it was a good thing that I quit the trail where I did, because the trail ahead of me had been evacuated days ago because of forest fire! Thanks Rangers!
Now that I know what to expect, I would do the trail again, but it will have to wait until "the next time".
Being from North Carolina, I have been on the trails in the Smokeys. One has to remember the hills in the Black Hills are as high or higher than the mountains in NC.
I hope this might help someone else considering the Centennial Trail in the future. I will return to hit this trail some day soon.
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2 out of 5 stars2 out of 5 stars2 out of 5 stars2 out of 5 stars2 out of 5 stars
7/1/2001
A very good trail as far as what it covers but sometimes the trailheads are very hard to find, especially when you get by local campgrounds. It comes out on a campgraound and you can't find the next trailhead. At one point it was about 4 miles down a road to the next one with no signs telling you that. Very frustrating. There was a split in the trail that was not on the map. Maps on the Centenial Trail are not detailed enough.
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4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
2/5/2001
The Centennial trail is a multi-use trail that crosses the entire Black Hills. Some areas are open to horse use and mountain biking and other sections of the trail are primarily for hikers. The trail is accessed from a number of trailheads and can be done in a number of shorter legs.

In the heat of Summer one should carry an abudnace of water if doing an extended hike along the centennial as water access is not always a given. A number of small streams do cross the trail but they are often quite distant.

One should find the trail fairly well marked and easy to navigate in most places (although I can not claim to have hiked the entire 111 miles). Elevation gain can be signifcant in a single day but not as extreme as hikes in the Rockies.
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The Centennial Trail Photos

Trail Information

Rapid City
Nearby City
111
Distance
Shuttle
Trail Type
10 to 12 days
Duration
Best spring through fall
Season
Wind Cave National Park
Local Contacts

Trail Log