Destinations, Ski & Spa

Black Elk Wilderness Backwoods at Its Best

August 25, 2015 by

Black Elk Wilderness Hiking

The Black Elk Wilderness area is comprised of 13,426 pristine acres in the Black Hills National Forest.

This site is named after the Oglala Sioux spiritual leader Black Elk and is considered sacred to many American Indians. It is also a congressionally-mandated wilderness area that does not allow motorized equipment or mechanical transport other than a mountain bike.

Black Elk Wilderness

Black Elk Wilderness Trail System

The Black Elk Wilderness trail system consists of hundreds of miles of trails and roads for hiking, horseback riding, bike riding, and cross country skiing. A list of the trails provides the length of each trail and the uses permitted for each one.

For instance, the Lost Cabin Trail is a 5-mile-long moderately difficult trail designated for hiking and horseback riding while the 5.5-mile long Hell Canyon trail is also moderately difficult but designated for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.

Black Elk Wilderness

Rock Climbing

Along with the hundreds of miles of trails, there are also hundreds of plotted climbing courses for every skill level throughout the Black Hills. If you’ve never tried this sport, several local businesses provide guides and training to get you started.

Permits and Passes Required

The Black Elk Wilderness area has a unique set of regulations. One of them is that entering the Black Elk Wilderness without a properly-completed self-registration form is prohibited. However, there is no fee to get into the Black Hills National Forest which is open year-round.


While there is no fee to get into the park, there are fees at the campgrounds and day-use areas operated by the Forest’s concessionaire from May to September. There are a few campgrounds in operation during the summer and before and after the concessionaire’s full service season which are operated by Forest Service Staff.

The entire area of the Black Elk Wilderness area is managed to ensure public enjoyment while protecting the magnificent landscape and natural character found here.

Please be sure to study the regulations before you arrive to stay in line with the program and keep the pristine setting just as it is for generations to come. For more information, visit their website.

Photo credits: Mike Black

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