What's Behind the Gate?
Have you ever seen one of these gates? Have you ever wondered what’s behind that gate? Well, if you look closely at the sign, you might see a little notice that it is open to hiking but closed to motor vehicles. I am not suggesting trespassing, if the sign says “No Trespassing,” it’s game over. Move on!
If the gate gives you the go ahead, climb that gate and go exploring! There are so many spectacular places hiding behind these gates. There are hidden trails, overlooks, decommissioned railbeds, ghost towns, limestone cliffs, creeks and springs, old mines and abandoned cars.
Throughout the Black Hills, these gates are everywhere in the National Forest. You won’t have to go far to find one. These gates mark forest service roads that are closed to motor vehicles. The mountain biking organizations in the area have made many fun trails to follow behind some of these gates. One of these is the Victoria Lake Lollipop Loop, a 5 mile loop trail that connects to a larger 15 mile loop trail. Intersecting with the Lollipop Loop is a fun easy trail along a decommissioned railbed. The tracks are gone, but there are still rail ties in place. It is amazing to see the workmanship put into the railroad, the carved and blasted rock and rock built walls. It’s easy to imagine a wooden trestle crossing a ravine along the route. This is found not far from Rapid City, along Sheridan Lake Road, just past Rockwood Dr.
Across the road from this gate, there is another gate. It leads to many possible routes, including one that leads to the other side of the Stratobowl, many overlooks of Spring Creek, and even one that takes you all the way down to the Storm Mountain Church Camp.
If you like ghost towns and abandon cars, you can find Spokane. There are is an abandoned house, a schoolhouse that has fallen into disrepair, and many, many abandoned cars. It is located near the intersection of Playhouse Road and Iron Mountain Road. There is also Meeker Ranch located behind another gate located at the end of Willow Creek Road near Custer. The house and barn have been preserved and are safe to enter. There are jars, kitchen utensils, and old magazines in the house. It is a gorgeous setting in the Black Hills that was once owned by Frank Cunningham Meeker, a member of the pony express who routinely rode a 100 mile route between Custer and Hat Creek, Wyoming.
Along Nemo Road, there is a trail that leads down to Box Elder Creek. There are limestone cliffs and caves along the creek.
There are so many hidden places behind these gates. Some are well-known and others seem to hide secrets of days past. If you are in need of a new trail, just find a gate and start hiking. You never know what you might find!