This great, moderate loop is perfect for visitors seeking to stretch their legs, and spend some time exploring the largest grassland in the United States. This loop ties together a great lookout, open prairie terrain, and the opportunity to travel next to Beaver Creek.
Multiple creek crossings may get your feet wet, especially early in the season.
If you're ready to set out on a loop that includes the best above-ground features of Wind Cave National Park, this is the perfect hike for you. Your journey begins at the Centennial trailhead parking area, located on SD route 87. There is ample parking.
The loop itself can be completed in either direction, depending on when you want to reach Lookout Point and the great viewpoint there. This route saves the lookout for the second half, and travels clockwise. Beginning from the parking area, head out on the Centennial Trail
. The first portion of the trail will be a relaxed descent, as you'll be working your way down to Reaves Gulch. From there, you'll be following along Beaver Creek, a lively and very chilly stream. This first part the hike is well shaded, and you'll enjoy taking in the ponderosa pines that surround the trail and the creek.
After about 1.5 miles, you'll reach a junction where the Centennial Trail
continues north. Instead, turn southeast onto the Centennial Spur Trail
. This brief trail will continue the gentle descent along Beaver Creek towards Limestone Canyon.
At a second trail junction, you'll turn south on the Highland Creek Trail
. This shaded trail is a cool respite on warmer days, and visitors will enjoy navigating through the riparian ecosystem. The shade will be much appreciated, as this portion of trail includes one of the only strenuous climbs of the journey. You'll ascend out of the Beaver Creek drainage and will climb toward the open prairie grasslands above. Once you've left the canyon-like feature that you have been traveling in, you'll reach a third and final trail junction.
Take the Lookout Point Trail
from where it meets with the Highland Creek Trail
, and you'll be turning back towards your vehicle. This lovely trail provides stunning views of the open grasslands around you. The rolling terrain is a great way to end your journey, and you'll enjoy moving between shaded ponderosa stands and open grassland. Stop at Lookout Point about 3.3 miles into your trip to enjoy this especially scenic spot.
Once you've had your fill, you can continue back to the trailhead by following along the Lookout Point Trail
Located not far from a prairie dog town, visitors might catch a glimpse of those rodents, or the Bison and Pronghorn that inhabit the area. You may see beaver along Beaver Creek, and elk may also be taking refuge in the shade.