The 111-mile Centennial Trail marked the 100th year of South Dakota's statehood (1889). The Centennial trail begins in the north at the top of Bear Butte. Bear Butte is sacred to the Native Americans and stands at 4,422 feet. The Centennial Trail then crosses the prairie grasslands near Bear Butte State Park and climbs into the Black Hills National Forest. Over the course of the trail, you'll experience a trail that skirts lakes and streams, winds its way through peaceful meadows and forests in the Fort Meade Recreation area and Custer State Park until you end up at Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs, SD. This trail was developed by state and federal agencies for everyone to enjoy.
The Centennial Trail is open to hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. However, portions of the trail do not allow horses or bikes, and those portions of the trail are clearly marked. The trail does cut through some isolated areas of the Black Hills. For a short day hike, this won't be too much of a problem. But if you plan on spending more time on the Centennial Trail, you'll have to plan on where you are going to get your water and food.
The Black Hills National Forest also provides habitat for many different wildlife species. You might see antelope, bighorn sheep, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, turkeys, mountain goats, and more. Additionally, there are approximately 370 miles of trout fishery streams in the Black Hills, and the Centennial Trail crosses a number of those streams.
In addition to the streams, the Centennial trail passes by seven different bodies of water, each with its own properties. Sheridan Lake and Pactola Reservoir are popular spots for boating, fishing, and swimming. Not only will you get a great view of many of the different bodies of water in the Black Hills, the Centennial Trail also passes within one mile of Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.
The Centennial Trail also passes by many different locations that are rich in Native American history. Archeological evidence suggests that Native Americans began using the area as far back as 10,000 years ago. The first expedition to explore the Black Hills was Custer's Expedition in 1874. The Centennial Trail passes by many of these historical sites.
There are some areas along the Centennial Trail that require permits and fees
Black Elk Wilderness portion of the Centennial Tail requires free registration for anyone using the Wilderness. This registration form describes the rules and regulations of the Black Elk Wilderness and are available at Wilderness Trailheads. Bicycles are not allowed in the Wilderness.
Custer State Park requires the purchase of a park entrance license for vehicles to use the Park. Annual and temporary permits are available. No permit is required to hike or bike through Custer State Park. Within Custer State Park, camping only allowed in developed campgrounds, except in the French Creek Natural Area where camping is allowed anywhere along the trail.
Wind Cave National Park requires a free backcountry permit for those who plan to camp in the backcountry. This permit describes requirements which must be followed when camping in the backcountry of Wind Cave National Park. Permits are available at Wind Cave National Park trailheads. Bicycles are not allowed off designated roads.