So many places to wander in the Black Hills; have you ever stumbled upon the Dugout Gulch trail? Most likely your answer is ‘I’ve never even heard of it.’ I hadn’t either, until a couple of years ago. After taking this hike, it reminded me why I continue to explore the Black Hills, because there are so many incredibly beautiful places right in our backyards that we have never even heard of!
To get to the trailhead of Dugout Gulch, head west on I90 (from Spearfish, SD). Take the Beulah, WY exit, Exit 205. Take a left (south) off of the exit turning onto FSR 863. Stay on this road for about 6 miles. The trailhead will be on the left (east) side of the road, just after a sign for the Babcock House.
Hiking Dugout Gulch
The trail consists of a 2.3 mile spur that connects to a 4.4 mile loop. If you hike the spur, do the loop, and return to the trailhead via the spur, you are looking at a hike that totals right around 9 miles. The trail overall is easy to moderate. For the majority of the trail, especially the spur portion, I would compare it to the Iron Creek Trail in Spearfish Canyon. There is no fee for hiking or parking at this trail.
Most of the hike you are surrounded by trees, aspen, spruce, and pine, so you walk in and out of shaded areas. You are far enough away from towns and roads that the quiet of the area is rather serene. There is a stream that runs along the spur and you must walk over wooded footbridges to cross. Also, along the spur portion are several meadow and grass covered areas that have abundant wildflowers and mushrooms growing, especially in the springtime. There is a picnic table at the trailhead and several wooden benches along the spur that provide perfect resting areas.
Possible animals that can be spotted along this trail are deer, turkey, elk, and mountain lions. There are several cattle gates and fences so cattle may been seen as well.
The trail is maintained and many portions exist on what used to be old forest service and logging roads. There are trail markers throughout to keep you on the correct path, though, when I last hiked in this area there was never any question of where the trail was or where you should be hiking. Dugout Gulch is maintained for hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and horses. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the trail.