Tales of winter trails – how we can preserve them for future hikes

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and many other wintery outdoor activities are enjoyed here in the Black Hills. Trail etiquette is crucial to maintaining these trails for generations to come, and keeping fellow outdoor enthusiasts safe.

Winter hiking in the Black Hills

Even when the air is brisk in the winter, activities can still be enjoyed, and people who normally bike or rock climb may opt to hike through the colder months. “When I can’t mountain bike, the next best thing is to hike. And we’ve got some of the best trails in the U.S.,” says Eric C., a hiker and mountain biker in the area. 

Hikers play a vital role in maintaining the trails, so what can we do to lend mother nature a helping hand?

“The biggest thing is to stay on the designated trails,” says Jason C., another hiker. “Don’t cross-cut and then also clean up after yourself. Whatever you take in with you, bring it out with you.”

Sometimes, it’s even necessary to set aside our pride to help the Hills. “If we see trash, we pick it up. And make sure you don’t litter,” add hikers Jackie and Mike.

It’s also important to know what kind of trail you’re on. Black Hills Nordic Ski Club and the Grooming Alliance of Spearfish remind everyone out on trails this winter that improper trail use, like hiking or snowshoeing on a cross country ski trail, can jeopardize or even damage the trails and those who use them for their designated purpose.

If you’re itching to head out this season, Jason C. says that the “trails are in pretty good condition, for the most part. There is some snow pack, there is a little exposure but it’s still pretty frozen. As of right now, you’re not going to tear them up very much.”

Once that snow starts melting though, it’s best to wait for the trails to dry out. “Don’t hike when it’s muddy,” Eric C. adds. “Stay on the trails, erosion is one of the biggest things that can harm a trail. When you step off the trail, you kind of compromise the way the trail was designed for the water runoff and such.”

The consensus among hikers? If you take care of the trails, they’ll take care of you, well into the future.

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