Hike the Lookout Point Loop at Wind Cave National Park
South Dakota › Wind Cave National Park
Added by Joe Whitson
Better known for its extensive cave system underground, Wind Cave National Park is one of the best examples of a mixed-grass prairie in the region. Hiking the Lookout Point Trail will give you an opportunity to see wildlife like bison, elk, pronghorns, and, if you're unlucky, cougars in prime habitat and since the vast majority of the park's visitors only experience the caves, you'll likely have this challenging trail to yourself!
The Lookout Point Loop actually combines parts of three trails to bring you through some of Wind Cave's best prairieland. Begin at the trailhead for Centennial and Lookout Point off of Hwy 87 and take Lookout Point trail east to Beaver Creek. At Beaver Creek, you'll catch the Highland Creek Trail and follow that until you hit Centennial Trail. You'll loop back through Reaves Gulch and Curley Canyon until the landscape opens up onto the prairie again. Centennial will bring you back to the trailhead.
It is likely you'll see elk and bison on this trail. They like to hide in the ponderosa groves scattered throughout the prairie, so keep your eye out as you pass through them. We also passed by a couple old kills, so be wary of possible predators including mountain lions and coyotes.
This trail is relatively flat, but it involves multiple water crossing that would be dangerous in the spring. It is also poorly marked and easy to lose the trail. This isn't that big as long as you know where you are. I suggest at least carrying a map if not a GPS/cell phone. The terrain is pretty open, so it's easy to navigate cross country to wherever you need to be.
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking Pole for water crossing
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Nice hike but
My wife and I did the full loop which included this trail and part of the Centennial. It is beautiful but, if you leave the parking lot heading south the trail is not well marked. You will cross a creek on a bridge. The actual trail crosses the creek a second time wading. Then a third time by wading. Instead, after you cross the foot bridge, keep the creek on your left hand and keep walking toward the place where the slope meets the creek. You will see the trail going up. (Don't worry, when you are there it will make more sense.)
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