Hitting the trail with man’s best friend

So you have seen others out on the trail with their dogs wag-tagging along and/or you were thinking about taking your own furry best friend out with you, but you weren’t sure what the rules and reg’s were? Never fear, what follows are details on where specifically you are allowed to bring your dog along. Always remember, rules change and the following list is by no means comprehensive, so if in doubt please do your due diligence and pay attention to and respect any official signage or instruction you might encounter.

United States Forest Service land in the Black Hills districts covers the majority of local riding terrain. Storm, Victoria, Buzzards, the Centennial, 40/40L, Big Hill, Crow Peak, Norbeck/Black Elk, Hell Canyon and Eagle Cliff trails are all on USFS managed property. The official Forest Service rules concerning pets are, “Pets are allowed on Black Hills National Forest as long as they are on a leash or under strict voice command. Pets are not allowed at swim beaches.” These rules are detailed in brief on some of the printed literature the USFS has on offer, but I was unable to find any details on their website.

Custer State Park has its own, similar set of rules. Pets are not allowed in any park buildings or on swimming beaches and when at a campground or day use area they must be leashed at all times on a leash with a length not more than 10 feet. When outside of campgrounds and day use areas they must be under strict voice control and a minimum of 200 feet away from any other park guests. All pet waste must be cleaned up and properly disposed of by the owner. Paraphrased from the SD GFP Rules & Regulations Page.

With all this freedom to take pets far away from the pavement almost everywhere in the Black Hills, it can be easy to overlook the fact that doing so is not allowed everywhere. One example is Wind Cave National Park, while pets are allowed inside the park the rules are much more restrictive, read them for yourself here

Another popular area where pets are welcome but there are additional restrictions is Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park aka “M-Hill” or “Cowboy Hill” in downtown Rapid City. Pets are allowed here and the standard caveat of packing out your pets waste definitely applies, but the rules also stipulate that your pet must be leashed at all times. If you did not realize this before and you have used the trail system there, you probably just raised an eyebrow and uttered a loud “huh?”. Yes, it’s true, many users of those trails disregard the rules where this is concerned and pets are generally well-tolerated off of a leash at HLMP. That said, if you do decide to disregard their policies you may be doing so to the future detriment of all trail users. So please, pack out what your furry buddy packs in and keep him/her under strict voice control at all times.

I was planning to also post places where you specifically cannot take your dog, but I could not really find any worth noting. How great is that?


Leo, a 20 week old miniature australian shepherd getting his first little taste of single-track alongside a bike on the Storm Mountain trails.

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