Lookout Mountain is a good place to trail run, and ride, dirt all year
So here it is, the end of November. Local cross country ski trails and fat bike trails are groomed and riding in The Black Hills of South Dakota. Terry Peak ski area just opened, it’s earliest in several years. And here I am, just wrapping up a 5 mile trail run a short drive from those places.
I really enjoy skiing; groomers on Terry Peak, back country in the canyon or cross country at Big Hill. These places offer great winter opportunities right out side our door in Spearfish and all over The Black Hills. But, I also enjoy trail running and mountain biking. Often that means a drive to Rapid City. But more often than not, Lookout Mountain with it’s aspect and position just outside the hills allows for dry dirt in the early and late winter months.
Lookout Mountain is a designated park in the City of Spearfish, SD. Trails total over 10 miles, although in the winter months the backside will hold snow longer making running and riding difficult and at times damaging to the trails. Trail access is through a tunnel from the opposite side of Interstate 90. There is ample parking at the Nevada Street Trailhead.
Before you head out, be sure to know the previous day’s weather as an indicator as to what to expect. From town you can get a good idea of snow cover but hidden from view would be the potential for greasy or muddy conditions. I like to make sure there was a good freeze overnight and to get out earlier in the day. If it’s been sunny all day and you haven’t gotten out by 1:00PM , I’d suggest waiting until tomorrow.
There will likely be places that are still holding some snow, especially as other park uses will pack it in. As I’ve explained in another post, I have winter traction on my running shoes. In the way of strategically placed sheet metal screws. More about that here.
My 5.5 Mile Winter Trail Run
- From the tunnel, you’ll run northwest for short distance, parallel to I-90. The trail is flat and open to the wind.
- At the top of a short rise the trail will turn more northerly to head up into the hills. Take the trail to the left and shortly after that, the next trail to the left. This is Old Blue, a hiking/running only trail, and will continue to parallel the interstate for about a mile. Eventually switching back as it meanders it’s way into deeper into the park and a rolling increase of 200′ elevation.
- Almost 2 miles into the run you’ll come to a cattle pass and Blue Stake Trail. Take left and head across the open meadow. Heading southeast now, the rolling terrain will open views to the right of Spearfish and to the left of the park’s interior and beyond.
- After .8 mile of rolling, punchy terrain you’ll come to Ridge Trail, take a left and continue along the western ridge with beautiful views of Spearfish and The Black Hills beyond. The trail will get steep at times, offering a good opportunity to push your heart rate. Keep at it, the pitches are short with good recovery between. Now is a good time to give the link to my GPX file. Here you can follow my track for a short .25 mile unofficial alternate trail and some of the best views available on the front side of Lookout Mountain.
- Swithcbacks and a steep two track and your final ascent will bring you to 4100′ and a right turn on Mesa for a short .1 mile to the start of Tech Essence and your 1.5 miles back to the tunnel.
- The first .6 mile of Tech is steep, fast, twisty and fun. Have confidence in your stride and let go. The last is .9 miles of wide open terrain with a nice gradual downhill, and your fastest section of the run. Be sure to take your time through the tunnel and enjoy the murals painted by the BHSU art students.