8 Factors to Consider When Hiking in South Dakota

How Do You Determine The Best Hiking In South Dakota For You? Use These 8 Factors!

If you like or love hiking, then South Dakota is a great state to live in or visit. And the South Dakota outdoors offer some of the best scenery, adventure, and wildlife around. From long, flat trails over plains and prairie, steep ascents to stunning mountaintop vistas, ridgeline walks in or above the clouds, and riverside jaunts along flowing waters, this state has many different kinds of trails and terrain to enjoy. The number of seasons here is just as varied and dramatic, as all four seasons make their presence felt and seen.

It’s easy enough to hop online and look up the best hiking in South Dakota. Here you can find out every formal trail open to the public, where to start them, hours or seasons of availability, and difficulty. Most will also be reviewed by previous hikers, but just because a trail is marked five stars doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best hiking in South Dakota for you. Keep reading to learn the eight factors you need to consider when winnowing down the highly rated trails you find online:

1) Are you looking for a day hike or overnight backpacking? Some trails in South Dakota are half-hour hikes, and some are dozens of miles that take a weekend or longer. Know what length of hike in which you are looking to do. If you’ve got a forty-pound backpack full of sleeping gear and days of food, (find some options at MagnusMidtboe.com), you’re not looking for an afternoon to kill.

2) Do you want to be a tourist? As you search online for the best hiking in South Dakota, you’ll quickly notice the trails that have the most reviews are the ones that are hiked the most. These are often ones available to tourists and casual vacationers. While they can be great hikes, the trails are often crowded and almost commercial. That might suit you some of the time, but if you’re looking to get away from people, other trails are more your speed.

3) What season are you looking for? Only the truly hardy souls look for winter hiking in South Dakota, but there’s still some available. Depending on where you hike, spring and fall can be equally beautiful, but trail availability might vary depending on the month. Most all trails are available in the summer, and the long days give you the most time to enjoy them.

nighttime stars of SD4) How many stars do you want to see at night? Some love hiking because they can get out into the wilderness and away from artificial light so they can sleep under the most stars they’ve ever seen before. While South Dakota does not have many major cities, getting away from light pollution is easier with more rural and remote trails.

5) What’s your capability level? Trails are often rated along the lines of casual, easy, moderate, difficult, and expert. Don’t overdo it here. If you’re not sure, look up trails you’ve already been on to see their ratings and remember how you did.

6) Are your trips spontaneous? If your hiking adventures are usually spur of the moment affairs, avoid trails that need preregistration, reservations, or permits of any kind.

7) Do you need to park somewhere close? Not every trail has a huge parking lot at the start. Find out if you’ll need a ride or a pick-up.

8) Do you like avoiding hunters? Your wanting to avoid hunters might have nothing to do with a distaste for hunters. You might even be one yourself. You just know that hiking and camping are sometimes safer, or at least quieter when you’re away from hunting grounds, of which South Dakota has many. Even if you’re outside hunting grounds and in safety, occasional gun shots in the distance can disturb your quiet camping. Since some open spaces are available for both hiking and hunting, depending on the time of year, this is something to take into consideration.

Looking up South Dakota’s many trails is easy enough to do, and then sorting them to find the best reviewed is also a simple step. Use the eight factors listed above to find the gems among them that suit the kind of hiking you’re looking to do yourself.

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