Custer State Park has a host of activities scheduled for February | Entertainment

Journal Staff Tanya Manus

The Black Hills trails provide a peaceful year-round retreat. The mild weather this winter makes February a good time to get out and enjoy nature.

At Custer State Park, most trails remain open year-round, said Custer State Park Visitor Services Manager Kobee Stalder. The park has designated trails for hiking only and multi-use trails for horseback riding, biking, or hiking. Only the Sunday Gulch Trail in the park is closed in the winter as it becomes icy.

“One of the benefits of living in the Black Hills is that we have mild winters, especially in the Southern Hills. The snow never lasts too long. It’s a great opportunity for winter recreation. People can enjoying different aspects of the Black Hills landscape,” Stalder said. “Winter is just as beautiful (as summer). Maybe a lot of people new to the area don’t know the trails are open. You can go out and discover and explore.

“In the Black Hills, I don’t know if too many trails are closed in the winter,” he said. “We encourage the outdoors in the winter.”

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During the winter, park users can borrow snowshoes for free for seven days, and the park offers guided snowshoe hikes. The Lovers Leap Snowshoe Hikes on February 12 and 13 are part of Custer State Park’s scheduled winter programs. All are free; a state park license is required for park entry.

February activities at Custer State Park will begin with a Groundhog Day program on February 2, followed by a community fishing day on February 5 to learn the basics of ice fishing, and a day of fishing on father-daughter ice cream on February 6. 13, a Wild Women of the West event gives women the opportunity to learn about ice fishing.

Enjoy an after dark lunar hike on February 17 and a Funday Sunday hike on the Stockade Lake Trail on February 27. Other ice fishing events are scheduled for February 19, a mother-son ice fishing day on February 20 and a nighttime ice fishing date on February 26. Go to gfp.sd.gov/parks/detail/custer-state-park/ Where m.facebook.com/CusterStatePark/ for more information and a full list of upcoming events.

Elsewhere in the Black Hills, Stalder said Black Elk Peak is open to winter hikers. For more information, visit alltrails.com/trail/us/south-dakota/black-elk-peak-trail.

At Spearfish Canyon, Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Falls, and all 76 trails are open year-round. The trails range from easy to difficult, offering both novice and experienced hikers excursions with lookouts and stunning waterfalls. For more information, visit spfcanyon.com/activities/hiking-trails-in-spearfish-canyon.

For hikes closer to home, the M Hill Trail in Rapid City has remained open longer than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. The M Hill Trail is part of the Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park, which is operated and managed by the Hanson-Larsen Group.

“During the pandemic, we have made it a point to stay open as much as possible so that people have opportunities for recreation. We are big advocates of safe behavior,” said owner Jeff Dennison. “We felt it was essential that people had a place to go, recreate and be outdoors.”

When out on trails, anywhere, it’s wise to remember some basic rules for everyone’s safety and comfort.

“We require that if you are walking a trail in Custer State Park that your dog be leashed or properly trained (to respond to voice commands),” Stalder said.

Dennison said basic trail etiquette includes cyclists yielding to runners and runners yielding to walkers. No one should stray from the paths. Safety tips and trail condition updates for M Hill are posted at m.facebook.com/hansonlarsenmemorialpark/.

“Most people travel the M Hill trails in the same direction. You don’t see a lot of people, depending on where you are on the hill,” Dennison said.

Other tips for safe hiking and outdoor recreation, visitrc.com:

– Pack plenty of water, food and first aid supplies. Check the weather forecast before you go and dress for the weather.

– The trails are there so that you know the way and the surrounding vegetation is not damaged.

– If you walk more slowly, move around and let others walk around you. If you are going down a steep trail, move to the side and let hikers going uphill have right of way.

– Be respectful. Hiking spots such as Black Elk Peak are sacred to Native American tribes.

– Keep a safe distance if you see wild animals. Some are faster than they look, and they can be unpredictable.

– If you are hiking, ice fishing, or planning other outdoor recreation alone, let someone know where and when you are going.

– Do not litter and if you find litter on a trail, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Leave the trail better than you found it.

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