Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest is mainly in western South Dakota, though it bleeds into northeastern Wyoming, too. It is 1.2 million acres of forested hills and mountains, perfect for escaping into the woods. 

Within the Black Hills is the Black Elk Wilderness and Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, each with its own intrigue. 

Black Elk, in the center of the large wildlife preserve, spans 13,426 acres and is an overlooked gem of the West. Horses and hiking are the primary means of transportation in this area. Still, it’s fairly popular due to a well-maintained trail system. 

Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service (

Despite, or perhaps because of its rugged terrain, people flock here to go to Sylvan Lake and Black Elk Peak. Longer routes, as always, provide more solitude, and can be found on the trail Lost Cabin #2 or Grizzly Bear Creek #7. 

In the greater Norbeck Wildlife Preserve area of the forest, you’ll find a 70-mile corridor called the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway. Established in 2001, the road encompasses the preserve and was designed to provide the regions grandest views. The winding route offers a perfect day trip through narrow rock tunnels and the stunning hills. Be sure to get out and walk, and head to a local campground to really soak in the sights.