Posts Categorized / Projects

  • Oct 08, 2018
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News, Projects, Rapid City, Spearfish, Sturgis, Volunteering

Black Hills Area Community Foundation Grant

Black Hills Trails is pleased to announce it has received a $3,000 grant from the Black Hills Area Community Foundation. These funds will support over-snow Trail Grooming for Fat Biking on the Black Hills National Forest and throughout the northern Black Hills.

Track sleds grooming a route overlooking Sturgis and Bear Butte

Mountain Biking in the Black Hills area is as popular as ever, and with the advent of fat biking, this popularity has blossomed into Winter over-snow riding. Over-snow riding has the same need for well constructed and maintained trails as during fair weather months. The most efficient way to create and groom these trails is using machines which groom (compact) the snow similar to a cross-country ski trail. Recent work with the Black Hills National Forest has allowed the use of snow grooming machines on designated trails. This network of trails is widespread enough that several machines are needed to accommodate the demand. In an effort to continue fulfilling Black Hills Trails’ mission of connecting communities, even over-snow, Black Hills Trails will utilize this grant funding, in addition to other sources, to purchase more over-snow grooming machines. These machines will power the volunteer trail grooming effort.

“Focusing effort on a single user-group, such as fat bikers, isn’t normally what Black Hills Trails would try to do. But the opportunity to help create a whole new type of sustainable trail use was too good to pass up. The machines the Quality of Life funding will help purchase will extend trail use for bikes into all four seasons. We are extremely pleased to receive this generous grant to keep building the momentum for trails and trail use — in all four seasons.”

– Samuel Greear, Executive Director, Black Hills Trails

The Black Hills Area Community Foundation (BHACF) awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process. Through the Quality of Life Grants process the BHACF supports a wide variety of proposals in: Arts and culture, environment and conservation, education, youth and children, social services, and community and economic development. Requests can support projects, programs, capital projects and general operating support. “We are proud to be able to respond to our communities changing needs and offer support to the nonprofits that make our region a better place every day. The information that the applicants share with us helps our organization grow in understanding the issues and concerns of people in our community,” says Liz Hamburg, Executive Director of the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.



About Black Hills Trails

The mission of Black Hills Trails is to maintain and enhance the trail experience in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The ultimate goal of Black Hills Trails is a future Black Hills where a diverse network of studiously designed, judiciously constructed and expertly maintained trails connect every city, town and point of interest in the region. The organization seeks the proliferation of recreational and backcountry travel opportunities for all non-motorized user groups.

In pursuit of these goals Black Hills Trails provides support to individuals, organizations, and events that promote these ideals and will strive to work with land managers in support of recreational opportunities.

Contact us.


About the Black Hills Area Community Foundation

The Black Hills Area Community Foundation has given more than $13 million in grants and scholarships over its 10-year history. In addition to our donor advised gifts, 100% of our foundation’s grantmaking initiatives stay in the Black Hills region! At its core, the BHACF is an organization created with gifts from generous people committed to local causes. For donors, the Foundation serves as a philanthropic advisor. For the community, the Foundation serves as a grant maker and a civic leader. Through the support of its donors and fund holders, the Foundation has been able to address some of the community’s most pressing needs.

The BHACF is a public charity 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit

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  • Dec 11, 2017
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News, Projects, Rapid City, Spearfish, Sturgis

2017 Report, Relationships: USFS, SDGFP, Project Status


Black Hills Trails doesn’t exist just to build and maintain trails, but to connect communities with each other. Connecting communities means connecting people, and forming long-lasting relationships. Our efforts were rewarded this year with the deepening and creation of two significant relationships, one with the Black Hills National Forest and the other with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. These two organizations manage the majority of recreational trails in the Black Hills area.

Relationships: Black Hills National Forest
Forest-Wide Volunteer Agreement

Black Hills Trails working in concert with BHNF Northern Hills District

Black Hills Trails has entered a Forest-wide partnership with the Black Hills National Forest. This partnership doesn’t simply replace standing agreements, it expands and enhances the existing relationship between Black Hills Trails and the Black Hills National Forest. Similar to an agreement held by Black Hills Trails partner organization, Black Hills Back-Country Horsemen, the new agreement provides a framework for meeting each year with Forest Leadership to discuss and make plans for Forest-wide recreation priorities, including maintenance and development. The plans made under this new agreement will help Black Hills Trails and the Black Hills National Forest help each other to better meet the recreation needs of local communities than at any time in the past.

Relationships: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
Bear Butte Trail Maintenance

Black Hills Trails volunteers gathered at the base of Bear Butte

Black Hills Trails and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks began forging a relationship in 2017 that is already bearing fruit for the Black Hills community. The initial project undertaken as part of this coordinated trail and recreation effort was maintenance and minor reconstruction of the iconic Bear Butte Trail, located northeast of Sturgis at the northernmost terminus of the Centennial Trail #89. This trail, one of the most loved in the Black Hills, was significantly improved by Black Hills Trails volunteers and by Game, Fish and Parks staff this fall.





Trailblazer Award

In 2017 Black Hills Trails began recognizing an individual for their significant contributions to trails in the Black Hills. The first-ever Trailblazer Award was presented to Ryan Larson of the Bureau of Land Management for his exceptional cooperation and coordination on the development and maintenance of the trail system on the Fort Meade Recreation Area. We could not think of any better recipient for the first presentation of this annual award. Ryan’s contributions to the trail causes go far beyond what is required of his position with the BLM.





To better manage the different efforts being undertaken by Black Hills Trails volunteers, and be able to better take advantage of new opportunities, Black Hills Trails re-organized into three Zones in early 2017.

Organization: Zones

Currently, most trail in the Northern Black Hills and all significant trail in the I-90 corridor is covered by a Black Hills Trails Zone. These Spearfish, Sturgis, and Rapid City Zones have consolidated the trail-related efforts of the existing organizations Northern Hills Trails and Black Hills Mountain Bike Association under a unified Black Hills Trails Banner. This consolidation helps bring together a significant pool of resources, expertise, and a unified voice that will result in more and faster progress on trail projects in the Black Hills in the future.

Organization: Leadership

The leadership of Black Hills Trails evolved in 2017 to represent the new zone structure. Joining the Board of Directors were:

  • Casey Bergstrom, representing the Spearfish Zone, cycling and hiking interests, and the cycling industry.
  • Emily Wheeler, representing the Rapid City Zone, trail running interests and the outdoor event industry, and will act as liaison to the Black Hills Runners Club.
  • Kent Jacobs, representing the Rapid City Zone, cycling and motorcycling interests, and acting as liaison to the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association.

These three new members join the existing Board:

  • Tony Ortiz, representing the Sturgis Zone, general outdoor recreation interests, and liaison to the National Forest Advisory Board.
  • Kevin Forrester, Founder, representing the Sturgis Zone, cycling and hiking interests, and liaison to the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council.
  • Samuel Greear, Founder, Executive Director.

One seat representing the Spearfish Zone remains to be filled. The Black Hills Trails Board would like to extend our thanks to Geoff Gloceri, who enthusiastically represented the interests of the organization in the Spearfish area in 2017, but has recently relocated.






They say the proof is in the pudding, and Black Hills Trails could not be more proud of the results that can be seen on the ground today, results made possible by our dedicated volunteers and partners.

Projects: 7th Cavalry Trail System

2017 saw a number of small updates and improvements to the 7th Cavalry Trail System on the Fort Meade Recreation Area east of Sturgis, including the completion of on-trail signage. All of the numbered trails on the Recreation Area have been given names and improved maps of the area are under development. The Grillo tractor and attachments purchased in early 2016 were instrumental to the completion of this trail system entirely with volunteer labor. The terrain, soils, and trail design lent themselves to rapid construction with an extremely reasonable investment in terms of both volunteer time and capital. Capital expenditures on the 7th Cavalry Trail System total less than $30,000 to date (2014-2017), including the purchase of the Grillo tractor, making it a practically unheard-of return on investment for local Black Hills Trails donors.

Projects: Deadman Trailhead

The Deadman Trailhead, located on the southern end of Sturgis on the corner of Pineview Dr and Vanocker Canyon Rd, near Flex Fitness and just south of I-90 exit 32, was completed this fall. This public-use Trailhead, located on a City-owned lot, had the grade raised significantly with the addition of nearly 300 tons of fill capped with limestone and was recently paved to meet City ordinance. This improved trailhead will serve as a primary access point to the future Deadman Trail System and is open today.

This trailhead was made possible by the generosity of many Black Hills Trails donors, and local businesses who contributed materials and/or labor. Benefactors of this trailhead include the City of Sturgis, Meade County, First Interstate Bank, Pete Lien & Sons, Bruch Gravel, Black Hills Energy, Wheeler Lumber, and Sacrison Paving. Because of these incredible partnerships, investment by Black Hills Trails totaled only $15,000 for this permanent trailhead.


Projects: City Dams

The first trail into the Sturgis City Dams was completed and opened for public use. This trail, which will be incorporated into the future Deadman Trail System, is already seeing significant use by the community for hiking and access to the angling opportunities afforded by the Dams. Due to the adverse terrain construction of this trail was made possible with the assistance of a private contractor and was machine-built on a corridor identified by Black Hills Trails volunteers. After rough construction, the trail was finished by volunteers who helped set a new participation record with nearly 40 volunteers lending a hand on the public volunteer day held in June of 2017.

The second and third of four possible trails accessing the City Dams were constructed by a trail contractor this year, but require completion by volunteers in 2018. These trails were machine-built, similar to the first trail, as required by the steep and rocky terrain. Once finished, the second trail will connect to existing routes near Veteran Peak to the south of the Dams, and ultimately connect to the Centennial Trail #89 north of Elk Creek Trailhead. The third trail connects to Bulldog Rd (FS 139.1), and the Centennial Trail #89 at the southern base of Alkali Ridge.

The total investment to date in these three trails, including the contracted construction, is approximately $40,000. These trails were made possible by generous contributions from within Sturgis and other Northern-Hills communities, the Altria Group, and funds raised at a fundraiser held in Sturgis in April 2017.


Projects: Deadman Trail System

While the trails into the City Dams, located on property owned by the City of Sturgis, are the heart of the future Black Hills Trails proposed Deadman Trail System, this trail system also includes approximately 10 miles of trail surrounding the City-owned property on National Forest lands. The Black Hills National Forest and the City of Sturgis have entered into an agreement to complete the environmental and other analysis required to finish this trail system. While some questions of cost and time to completion remain, this process is already well underway.

Black Hills Trails continues to assist both the City of Sturgis and the Black Hills National Forest through this federally mandated process. Once the required analysis is complete, Black Hills Trails will be allowed to move ahead with construction of the remaining trail, which is anticipated to happen in 2018.

The expenses required to finish the Deadman Trail System, including the aforementioned analysis, as well as remaining trail construction, equipment, map development, and signage are estimated at $125,000 – $175,000 in 2018 and 2019.

Projects: Other

Black Hills Trails continues to work on numerous other projects around the area, and assist partner organizations with their efforts. Just like in previous years, dozens of miles of existing trail were cleared of fallen timber or otherwise improved by our dedicated volunteers.

The Spearfish Zone of Black Hills Trails has continued progress on a number of on-going projects. Representatives are continuing to collaborate with the City of Spearfish on the Lookout Mountain Trail System to ensure it is able to meet diverse needs and is a valuable asset to the community. The Tinton Trail (also known as the Dakota Five-O Loop) continues to edges closer to official Forest System status, led by Black Hills Trails partner, the Ridge Riders of the Black Hills Mountain Bike Club. Black Hills Trails volunteers continue to assist with this effort on the ground.

Black Hills Trails and the Bureau of Land Management worked with Eagle Scout candidate Seth Edelen on his Eagle Scout project of designing and building a new trail. This successful project resulted in a new section of trail that helped make the first-ever youth-only mountain bike race in the Black Hills possible. The event drew nearly 140 elementary, middle, and high school riders and was an overwhelming success.






With the end finally in sight on the Sturgis-area projects, Black Hills Trails will be taking action in 2018 on future trail systems. Please stay tuned, as your help will absolutely be required!

Black Hills Trails would not be able to continue its mission of building community with trail and connecting our local communities without the continued involvement of amazing volunteers and donors. We would like to extend our deepest thanks to all those who contributed needed funds, labor, or support to the continuation of our mission in 2017.

Thank You!




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  • Apr 20, 2016
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News, Projects

Improving trail accessibility with roll over gates

The Northern Black Hills has a bit of history with above-ground cattle guards. In 1993, several of the devices were installed on the Fort Meade Recreation Area outside of Sturgis. Around the same time, several more were installed on the Bearlodge Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in Wyoming. In the intervening years, thirty or more of these “roll over gates” have been installed throughout the Northern Black Hills. They have proven themselves in the field, with reduced instances of walk-through gates being left open and cattle being let out, and to date, there have been no reports of stock being injured by them. They have also proven to be remarkably durable for simple timber structures made from nothing more than 2″x6″ dimensional treated lumber and nails or screws. Those first roll over gates installed in 1993 did not receive any maintenance until Public Lands Day in 2013, and while several of the “treads” were replaced, the devices were still fully functional. As a result of their simple construction, they are also easy to repair in the field — even deep in the back-country — with nothing more than basic hand tools.

Many times these devices are referred to as a THAD (pronounced Tee Head) by locals. The acronym is the subject of some debate, but typically Trail Head Access Device, or Trail Head Animal Deterrent, depending on which of the folks with a long memory happen to be telling the tale. The newest design is in three pieces, intended to make the construction, installation, and maintenance all that much easier. It is almost unbelievable that such a simple, easy to maintain device makes using local trails so much more enjoyable for cyclists, hikers, and runners. Those with grazing leases sing praise as well, they tend to spend much less time chasing down stray cattle after the devices are installed. Trail users simply don’t have to be concerned about closing a gate if they don’t have to open the gate in the first place.

It was a snowy Sunday afternoon in April of 2016, when a handful of volunteers gathered in Spearfish to construct the latest of these roll over gates. Of the seven gates constructed that afternoon, two are destined for the Lookout Mountain Park in Spearfish, to compliment the revamped trail system under construction there. The other five will be installed on the Centennial Trail #89 on the Mystic District. These roll overs will be installed alongside existing gates on the Centennial from Highway 385, just south of Pilot Knob, south past Pactola, over Samelius to near Mt. Rushmore. The Centennial Trail has, for a number of years, been passable without opening a single gate for dozens of miles to the north of Highway 386. From Pilot Knob, just north of Pactola Reservoir, to Sturgis, one can travel the entire length of the Centennial Trail between these points without opening a single gate. These new roll overs will be the first installed in the Southern Black Hills, as part of the Tatanka Mountain Bike Race Special Use Permit with the Black Hills National Forest.

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  • Dec 08, 2015
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News, Projects, Sturgis

We need your help connecting communities

Black Hills Trails is working hard to connect communities in the Northern Black Hills. A major step in this vision is right around the corner and we need your help to make it happen.

In addition to the many miles of trail we help maintain, Black Hills Trails and our volunteers have built about two miles of new trail each year, for the past three years. The progress has been slow and steady, but thanks to our resolve and the continual willingness of dedicated volunteers to show up and move dirt, the opportunity to do much more is at hand.

Black Hills Trails has recently entered into an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to build the 7th Cavalry Trail System on the Fort Meade Recreation Area east of Sturgis. Progress on this is already underway, but there are more than twenty miles of new trail to build in the near future.

IMG_3144The City of Sturgis has recently approved the development of new trails into the City Dams, or Davenport Dams, that will be integral to a much larger Deadman Mountain Trail Project that Black Hills Trails is working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to achieve.

A conservative estimate puts the costs associated with finishing these projects over the next several years at more than $75,000. These costs include an expansion of the supplies and equipment available to our volunteers, contract construction services for the work we will be unable to complete ourselves, and the materials necessary to add proper signage to this world class trail system when it is complete.

Black Hills Trails strongly believes these enhanced recreational opportunities will improve the health and happiness of area residents, and provide numerous future opportunities to benefit the local economy and our Black Hills way of life. By supporting these projects you are supporting the Black Hills Trails vision of connecting our communities.

One local donor believes strongly in this vision, and is willing to match, dollar for dollar, each and every donation made to Black Hills Trails up to 50% of our fundraising goal, or $37,500.

Donors Tom Herman, Keith Smit, and Mike Strain

Donations may be mailed to:
Black Hills Trails
P.O. Box 661
Sturgis, SD 57785

Alternate means of making donations are available on our website, at, or contact us by emailing Black Hills Trails maintains 501(c)(3) charity status with the IRS, your donation will be tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.


Your financial support in connecting Black Hills communities is greatly appreciated.


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  • Oct 14, 2015
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News, Projects, Sturgis

Sturgis Watershed & City Dams Access

Your rights to access public lands are at stake, we need your help!

Background – In the 1970’s the City of Sturgis purchased the domestic water distribution and storage infrastructure from the Jarvis Davenport heirs that was originally built in the early 1900’s. Due to EPA regulations the above ground water storage system AKA “City Dams” was abandoned as a source of drinking water for the City of Sturgis. For the last 30 years the only persons utilizing the City Dam property have been recreational in nature through executive privilege or outright trespass. No public access to this public land has been allowed.

The 501(c)(3) not for profit Black Hills Trails has proposed including the City Dam property in a stacked loop multiple option non-motorized trail system that is directly accessible from several trailheads within the Sturgis City limits and several trailheads located on BLM and US Forest Service property. This system would encompass the Fort Meade Recreation Area managed by the BLM, City of Sturgis property adjacent to the Bear Butte Cemetery, the Barry Stadium, and the City Dams, along with USFS property on Deadman Mountain, and along Alkali Creek. When completed, recreational users will have access to loops of length from only a couple miles to 50 miles, or more, all starting and finishing in the city limits of Sturgis. Additionally, new water born recreation never before open to the public will be made available in addition to many possible historic interpretative possibilities.

Progress to date includes:

  • New trail from the Lions Club Park to the BLM Fort Meade Recreation Area.
  • Environmental Assessment completion and start of construction on 27 miles of the marked and mapped 7th Calvary trail system on the Fort Meade Recreation Area.
  • A $250,000 Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to the City of Sturgis for the construction of a 3 mile handicap accessible loop around the south side of the Fort Meade VA Hospital.
  • Designation of three trailheads (Lions Club, Old Stone Road, Deadman) within the Sturgis City Limits.

The Sturgis Park Board at their September 15th meeting unanimously approved a recommendation to the Sturgis City Council that the City Dams be open as soon as possible to the public providing a “minimalist wilderness-like experience for hikers, horse riders, and mountain bikes with primitive overnight camping”. Safety of the public using the area was discussed by the Park Board and the group indicated the South Dakota liability umbrella that protects the city from liability at parks, sports fields, and activities in the downtown area would apply. The Park Board also indicated that conditions at the City Dams were consistent with those at other city and federal managed reservoirs locally and did not see any liability concerns that would affect public access to the site. Private property owners in the vicinity of the cites holdings would not be affected as all routes are on City, USFS, and BLM property.

All trail construction will be funded through grants and donations to Black Hills Trails and with volunteer labor wherever possible. City of Sturgis budgetary impact would be minimal to non-existent.

WE NEED YOUR HELP – Black Hills Trails requests your attendance at the Sturgis City Council meeting on the evening of Monday, October 19 at 6:30pm, in the Commissioners’ Room of the Erskine Building, 1300 Sherman Street, Sturgis. Please be present to show your support for your right to access this public land. If you are unable to attend, please relay your support to your Sturgis councilperson or the Mayor.

Mayor & Council Contact Information:



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  • Oct 06, 2015
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News, Projects, Sturgis

Sturgis Trail Project Reaches Significant Milestone

For Immediate Release                                                                         October 6, 2015

Sturgis Trail Project Reaches Significant Milestone
Funding secured for three mile accessible trail loop around Fort Meade

(Sturgis, SD) – The City of Sturgis has secured $250,000 in funding through the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) to construct a three mile trail around the Fort Meade Veterans Administration Hospital (VA). The trail will be handicapped accessible and will tie into key existing facilities and points of interest.

The new trail will enrich the experience of hospital guests and create a new recreation opportunity for VA staff and area residents by connecting the Fort Meade Trailhead including the Fort Meade Recreation Area Trail System and Centennial Trail. The new trail will also link the Sturgis Bike Path, Barry Stadium, and Fort Meade Museum.

The Bureau of Land Management, VA, the City of Sturgis, Sturgis Parks Department, and area non-profit Black Hills Trails have been collaborating on the development of an extensive stacked loop recreational trail system in and around the City of Sturgis since 2013. This new accessible loop trail is a significant milestone in that collaboration.

Future goals of this group initiative include connecting these trails with proposed trail systems on Deadman Mountain and in the Sturgis Watershed, and ultimately to connect area communities.

To get involved please subscribe to the Black Hills Trails email list on Future news and opportunities to collaborate and volunteer will be announced on this website, as available.


Bureau of Land Management
Ryan Larson
(605) 892-7000

City of Sturgis
Ann Bertolotto
(605) 347-4422, ext 206

South Dakota Game Fish & Parks
Recreational Trails Program
Randy Kittle
(605) 773-3391

Black Hills Trails

More details from South Dakota Game Fish & Parks


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  • Apr 22, 2015
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Projects, Sturgis

Public meeting! New trail network coming to the City of Riders!

Black Hills Trails Members have worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for more than 20 years to maintain and enhance the user established Fort Meade Recreation Area trails in Sturgis. The Fort Meade Recreation Area provides a back-country setting immediately accessible from town and has long been enjoyed by those residents and visitors who are fortunate enough to know about the scenery and diversity of recreation contained within its borders.

The blood, sweat and tears of many volunteers is now paying dividends as the BLM adopts a proposal championed by Black Hills Trails to significantly improve Fort Meade Recreation Area trails and turn them into an official trail network. This proposal has now entered a public comment period, one of the final hurdles before Black Hills Trails can put boots on the ground and build more world-class trails.

Black Hills Trails and the Bureau of Land Management would like to invite everyone with an interest in this project to a public meeting at the Alkali Creek Campground/Trailhead from 4:30 to 6:30 PM on Thursday, April 30. Attendees will learn more about the proposed changes and be given the opportunity to provide feedback, as well as learn how to become more involved.

To get to the Alkali Creek Campground, take I-90 Exit 34 (by the National Cemetery) then travel north on the BLM road for about 1/4 mile to the campground which is identified by signage.

Black Hills Trails invites you to attend, even if you have no comments, as a form of showing support for the importance and timely implementation of this project. Help us fulfill our continuing mission of connecting communities with trail!



More details:

BLM Page:

PDF Maps:

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