2020 Report: Spearfish Zone

This report is the final Zone report and is a follow-up to our recently released Black Hills-wide report. This report covers the period since our last major update in 2017.

One of Spearfish’s gems is their in-town trail system on Lookout Mountain. Black Hills Trails was excited to partner with the City of Spearfish through an agreement to maintain these trails and ensure their accessibility and use for the years to come. After years of discussions about permitted trail improvements on Lookout, at the end of the day, the land needs the trails more so than the users. Maintaining a somewhat minimal but sustainable trail system will ensure these public lands remain well preserved for future generations to enjoy, and we are proud to be a small part of that legacy.

The Tinton Trail also became an official route, tying together multiple existing trails and trail systems with a new trail. It forms a giant lollipop-shaped loop, approximately 40 miles in length. This route is used for the wildly popular annual Dakota Five-O mountain bike race. Black Hills Trails made volunteers and equipment available and assisted the Ridge Riders of the Black Hills, the entity that officially manages the trail, and the Forest Service, in bringing this trail into “official” being. A huge congratulations are in order to the Ridge Riders for making this trail official, a project 20+ years in the making.

Following a successful fundraiser, the Spearfish Zone purchased the supplies required to equip a small volunteer army for the above-mentioned sustainable trail maintenance. The short list of supplies purchased, thanks to the generosity of attendees to the Spearfish fundraiser includes chainsaws, safety gear and supplies, numerous hand tools, trail grade string trimmers, and a mower and harrow attachment for the proven Grillo trail tractors used by Black Hills Trails, one of which lives in Spearfish full-time.

Required maintenance in the Spearfish area for the past several years has met or exceeded the rest of the Black Hills combined. Due to the confluence of numerous natural events, including fires and multiple tornadoes, some of the area trails might have returned to nature were it not for the constant effort by individuals to keep them open, and the generosity of donors to ensure those volunteers had, and continue to have, the equipment they need.

The Crow Peak Fire of 2016 created nearly continuous maintenance for area volunteers. The fire itself burned numerous trees and left them standing dead. These dead-standing trees have taken their time falling on the trail. As these trees have fallen the soils have eroded, devoid of the stabilization provided by these trees. Wind and snow loads have overpowered the remaining live trees, many of which have fallen on the trail. For those that have hiked Crow Peak, you know that just hiking to the summit takes significant effort. Imagine the volunteers that have hauled a saw and supplies to the top multiple times per year, while wearing safety gear.

In 2018 and 2020, tornadoes wrought havoc on the Old Baldy and Spearfish Canyon areas. Volunteers spent hundreds of hours and used countless tanks of saw gas clearing fallen trees from trails following these two events. After each tornado, the Forest Service coordinated with volunteer crews, fire crews, and the timber industry in an all-hands-on-deck effort to ensure these trails were safely brought back into use. In many cases, these trees were twisted into jumbles, requiring a great deal of time and care to safely remove. Some areas had dozens of trees down on every hundred feet of trail, for mile-long sections or more.

If you know any of the individuals involved in the maintenance efforts in the Spearfish area in recent years, they deserve a pat on the back, for them, it has been a Herculean effort simply to maintain the status quo.

One of the more recent exciting events to take place in Spearfish was the approval of a Skills Park. Spearfish Bicycle Skills Park (SBSP) is the organization leading the charge and they are working with Black Hills Trails to build the park and provide riding opportunities for mountain bike riders of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. SBSP and Black Hills Trails are working with the City of Spearfish to provide trails and skill features in the City of Spearfish in a reduced risk environment. This provides beginner riders with entry level trails and features in a setting close to home.

Phase 1 of the Skills Park construction effort is nearly complete. Black Hills Trails volunteers built 5 sets of features in the Skills Park and put in 1.5 miles of trails for kids on balance bikes and beginner riders. There is still another 1.5 miles of trail to complete to finish Phase 1 before Phase 2 begins. Phase 2 will add more features to the Skills Park and begin planning work on the second location by False Bottom Creek. Follow Spearfish Bicycle Skills Park on Facebook for more information.

With numerous individuals and groups pursuing new trails and maintaining the current ones in the Spearfish area, it has been a somewhat complicated community to maintain a Black Hills Trails Zone in. These groups have had a great deal of success in and around Spearfish without us. The last thing Black Hills Trails wants to do is slow down trail progress or step on the toes of those making trail happen. Ultimately, the tent that is Black Hills Trails exists to connect communities, and more than that, just to help get things done. We are glad to support these existing as well as new efforts for years to come.

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