Friday, June 1, 2018

Flume Trail, Black Hills, SD

During numerous past road trips to the Black Hills, I never specifically hunted for hiking trails to try out, that is until May 2018. After some extensive research on the Custer State Park website, Black Hills National Forest website, and trail review sites, I compiled a list of several trails to try out, the Flume trail was top of the list, and it is a real cracker of a hike.

The Trailhead for the northerly Flume trail can either be found at the very southerly tip of Sheridan Lake (the Calumet Trailhead accessed from Highway 385 and via Sheridan South Campground), or east of the Lake (the Upper Spring Creek Trailhead accessed from Sheridan Lake Road). Sheridan Lake is located 6 miles east of Hill City in the Central Eastern Black Hills.

Calumet Trailhead for the Flume Trail

The Flume Trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail due to its historic importance, it follows the old course of a Flume that was used during the heyday of gold mining in the 1880's. The entire trail is 11 miles in length, but the northerly portion I am describing is a 5.1-mile loop that takes in the best sections of the historic trail and the pristine beauty of the Black Hills.

5.1-mile loop along the Flume and Upper Spring Creek Trails

The above map shows the loop going counter-Clockwise, but you could go either way; my personal preference is CCW as it has more gradual climbs (lines marked in red indicate higher trail elevations).

Mile 0-1
The 1st mile follows the shared Flume/Centennial Trail, it closely hugs the shoreline of Sheridan Lake staying above the waterline, dropping down to the shore briefly. The trail splits once you approach the Dam (easterly end of the Lake), the Centennial Trail heads northerly across the Dam, and the Flume Trail heads briefly southeast up the side of a hill before turning northeast - the Split can be a little hard to notice, so just look for the Trail #50 markers on trees.

Sheridan Lake looking Westerly

Flume Trail as it curves around an inlet

Mile 1-2
This portion of the hike follows the old course of the Flume high above the canyon, there are plenty of historical artifacts along the way to remind you of the rich mining history. The old Flume tunnel is a particular highlight of this portion of the trail, but you will also come across old stone retaining walls, and even old timbers from the Flume.

Old Stone retaining walls

The westerly entrance to one of the Flume tunnels

The easterly entrance to the Flume tunnel

The view across the canyon from this portion of the Flume Trail is spectacular, and in Spring the green colours are so fresh and vibrant.

View from the high section of the Flume Trail

Miles 2-3.5
Once reaching mile 2 the trail splits again, the Flume Trail continues in a southeasterly direction, and the Spring Creek connector Trail splits to the North (not well marked!). You drop pretty quickly through a pretty green gully to Upper Spring Creek, after crossing the Creek on a log bridge you reach the Trailhead (note: no bathrooms here!). From mileage 2.3 to 3.5 you follow the Upper Spring Creek Trail, this trail is BEAUTIFUL, and a contrast in scenery from the higher up Flume Trail. The trail for this section makes you feel like you are in a lush Pacific Northwest river valley, but also makes you appreciate just how much of a task it was to construct the "Flume" higher up in the canyon.

One of many log bridges you have to cross

Stunning Creekside views

Miles 3.5-5.1
After a mile or so you eventually reach the Dam and the end of Sheridan lake again, a short gentle climb takes you back to the Split of the Flume Trail and Centennial Trail (stay to the left when reaching the Dam wall). From this point onward you re-trace your steps back along the shared Flume/Centennial Trail to the Calumet Trailhead.

Flume/Centennial Calumet Traihead

Essential info

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