Black Hills National Forest

Hiking Bearlodge Trails
Gorp.com

The Sundance and Carson Draw Trail systems provide the opportunity to explore the distinct beauty of the Black Hills of Wyoming, known as the Bearlodge Mountains. These trails pass through rugged canyons and rise out onto scenic ridge tops. Sundance is a 50.3 mile system, good for backpacking trips as well as dayhikes. Carson Draw is a smaller, but still worthy 6 mile system. Carson Draw really shines in winter, when it is used for cross-country skiing.

History buffs can explore the traces of the area's European settlement.

Each June, mountain bikers gather for the Bearlodge Fat Tire Challenge which uses the Bearlodge Trails as the main part of their course.

Trail access is provided by trailheads conveniently located at campgrounds. The trails are clearly marked with brown posts bearing distinct logos and are easy to follow.

There is no drinking water available along the trails, so bring water with you.

Sundance Trail System

This partly non-motorized 50.3 miles trail system weaves through the network of densely-forested canyons and winding open ridges that form the Bearlodge Mountains. You pass through pine, aspen, and oak woodlands. From some ridge tops you can see such sites as the Route of the Custer Expedition, Devil's Tower, and the Twin Missouri Buttes. Elk, deer and turkey abound and an occasional mountain lion may be glimpsed.

Elevation: 4600 to 6200 feet
Length: 50.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy - Difficult
Location: 3.5 miles north of US 14 and Sundance on Government Valley Road. Horseback - This rugged but serene country is ideal for horseback. The secluded trails provide one of the most primitive recreational opportunities in the Black Hills. Sundance Campground and Trailhead provide facilities accessible to people with disabilities including an equestrian mounting ramp. Water for horses is available along many of the trails.

Mountain Bikes - The Sundance Trail system is well-recognized for excellent and challenging mountain biking opportunities because of the rough topography. Be sure to look for bypasses designed specifically for more challenging mountain biking, especially"South Fork Tent" and the '"Edge" Trail.

Other Area Attractions - The Sundance Trail System is within a short distance of Warren Peak Fire Lookout tower on FDR 838. From the lookout, you will have a sweeping view of the Bearlodge Mountains, Devil's Tower, and Inyan Kara Mountain. You can also gain access to the Cook Lake Recreation Area by following the old Bearlodge Truck trail.

Carson Draw Trails

These are four season non-motorized trails total 6.0 miles winding through Carson Draw. They are off the "beaten path. and offer solitude to those searching for more primitive-type experiences. Pine, aspen, and oak surround the trails and provide habitat for the abundant wildlife that use the area.

Elevation: 5400 to 6200 feet
Length: 6. 0 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: 3. 0 miles north of US 14 and Sundance on FDR 838.

Cross Country Skiing - The prime use of Carson Draw Trails has been by cross country skiers in the wintertime. They find smooth, fast and fairly steep descents as well as tranquil level stretches. The 6 miles of trail are groomed weekly as weather permits in cooperation with the Wyoming Parks and Historic Places.

Hikers. Mountain Bikers and Horse Riders - Open from Spring until Fall, these trails are a pleasant diversion into the peaceful back woods. Users may find that the trails are much like the Sundance system in their beauty and serenity and offer an even greater level of solitude.

Sundance Trailhead
This trailhead provides direct access to the Sundance Trails. It is located 3 miles north of Sundance and US 14 at Sundance Trails Campground adjacent to Government Valley Road.

The campground itself offers a variety of facilities for the trail user and accommodations for up to 40 horses. There are restrooms, drinking water, garbage facilities, and overnight parking. For horse riders, there are 6 corrals, 2 feeding bunks, and 3 water hydrants. Camping is available for a fee. All facilities are accessible to people with disabilities including an equestrian mounting ramp. The campground is open from April 1 to November 31 as weather permits. Drinking water is only available while the campground is open.

Reuter Campground
This campground allows access to both the Sundance Trail and Carson Draw Trail systems. It is located 2.2 miles north of US 14 on FDR 838 and 2.1 miles West of Sundance.

Open year-round, Reuter CG has 24 units, drinking water, and restrooms. The water is turned off after Labor Day. Overnight parking is available if you have paid for a camping site. There are no horse facilities and horses are not allowed in the campground.

Campsite reservations for either Reuter or Sundance Campground may be made.

Historically Speaking

The Bearlodge Trails have been developed to provide the recreationist with the opportunity to enjoy the Wyoming Black Hills. However, many of the trails existed way before that. They were the routes to reliable water, the only access to some parts of the mountains, and a key part of the rich mining history of the Bearlodge.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, miners and homesteaders made their way into the Bearlodge Mountains and settled. Three of the Bearlodge Trails have been named for some of those first families, the Carsons, Ogdens, and Reuters. The Ogdens had settled in the mouth of what is now Ogden Canyon in 1881. In 1893, a German immigrant, Emil Reuter, also made his way into the canyon to spend the rest of his life prospecting. The miner loved the .Bearlodge Mountains so much that he never left them in the 32 years before his death. He was buried in the heart of the Bearlodge and his grave can still be found to this day along the Ogden Canyon Road.

Not only were the trails access to the homesteads and mining claims, they were the way to the reliable water sources. Ranchers used many of the trails to bring their livestock up into the mountains to reach the water. With each homestead also came a set of water rights to some of the springs and streams up in the mountains and the homesteaders forged trails to access those including the Sand Pit Trail.

The Bearlodge Trails also follow paths that were the only access for fire fighters as they attempted to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of the mountains. The Richardson Fire Trail was one of those key routes.

As trail users wander through the Southern Bearlodge, they might notice old fire scars. These are remnants of the great Sundance Fire of 1936 which burned 8,200 acres and had threatened the town of Sundance. 

Trails Length Difficulty
Carson Draw** 6.0 Miles Moderate
Carson Cut-Across 0.7 Miles Moderate
East Fork Quarry 1.4 Miles Moderate
"Edge" (Mtn Bike) 0.8 Miles Moderate-Difficult
North Fork Tent 1.3 Miles Difficult
Ogden Creek 3.6 Miles Easy
Ogden Ridge 2.8 Miles Moderate
Reuter Springs 2.9 Miles Easy-Moderate
Richardson Fire 5.4 Miles Moderate
Sand Pit 4.9 Miles Easy
Sheepnose 6.7 Miles Moderate
South Fork (Mtn Bike) 2.5 Miles Difficult
Sundance 1.2 Miles Difficult
Tent Canyon 4.1 Miles Easy-Moderate
Tent Canyon Ridge 3.3 Miles Moderate
Upper Ogden 1.3 Miles Easy
West Fork Quarry 0.6 Miles Moderate
Whitetail 0.8 Miles Moderate

Difficulty ratings are based on the average slope of that trail. The Carson Draw Trail difficulty is rated for cross-country skiing. Trail difficulty is usually one rating class less difficult for other users.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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