Visitor Itinerary: Take the Ride

It’s time to journey into the hills, and we’re sharing info on our favorite rides which start in Sturgis and will take your breath away!

The Ft. Meade National Backcountry Byway is a five mile gravel road traversing both plains and forested hills just east of Sturgis. Scenic beauty and historic sites await you on your drive. You can enter the byway either off Exit 34 from I-90 or off Highway 34 just west of Ft. Meade.

Aiding you on your journey are markers highlighting significant sights. Many areas along the byway relate to Ft. Meade’s rich history, including jumps for training horses, an old stone ammunition storage building and the old post cemetery. Stop at the cemetery to witness cavalry history and enjoy a magnificent view of Bear Butte before traveling on.

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View the site where outlaw Curley Grimes was killed by vigilantes while being escorted to trial in Sturgis; this site has both a marker near the road and his grave is just a short way up the hill. Make sure you take time to hike the short trail to the Ute Indian encampment, where a band of Utes wintered before being escorted back to their reservation.

Enjoy hiking on a nature trail at Alkali Creek Campground. You will find markers showing direction and information on the flowers and other vegetation you’re passing. Many visitors choose to enjoy a picnic or camp for a night or two at the Campground.

The VFW Memorial Park Chapel is found at the southwest starting point of the byway just off Exit 34. Built in 1968 and maintained by area VFW chapters the chapel is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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Just east of the northern entrance to the byway is Ft. Meade which was established as a cavalry post in 1978 to protect settlers and miners in the Black Hills. Take time to tour the historic grounds where many of the buildings from bygone days can still be seen (stop at the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau for a map of the post buildings) and wander through the Ft. Meade Museum to discover more history!

Vanocker Canyon offers superb views of the northern Black Hills. This drive is magnificent any time of year, but is exceptional in the fall when the aspen, oak and other deciduous trees are changing color and painting the canyon in shades of yellow, orange and red to mix with the green beauty of the pines.

Your ride starts at Exit 32, turn to the west onto FSR 26. At the canyon’s mouth you’ll see grape vines which designate the future site of Belle Jolie Winery. As you drive up the canyon you’ll appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and enjoy the twists and turns that make this canyon such a great run. At its high point you can look out over a spectacular view before heading back down to lower elevations.

Beautiful Wonderland Cave filled with a wide variety of stalactites, stalagmites, crystals and other formations is a perfect place to stop and take a tour. Each tour lasts approximately 20 minutes, but make sure to take a sweater or light jacket as the temperature remains a constant 47° all year round!

Another great stopping point is Dalton Lake. Enjoy taking a hike on the Centennial Trail or fishing in the lake which was made by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930. There are limited facilities and 10 camping sites at this lovely little lake.

The tiny town of Nemo, which was established in 1877, is another ideal stopping point. You can hike (a trailhead for Centennial Trail is nearby), or just stop at the general store for a visit. Just outside of Nemo you can choose the next direction for your journey – north which will eventually lead you to Deadwood & Lead; or south where you can travel to Rapid City and back to Sturgis by way of I-90, or continue onto the southern Black Hills before circling back to Sturgis. The choice of adventure is yours!

Boulder Canyon connects Sturgis to Deadwood using Highway 14A. Take time to slow down and enjoy the view in this narrow canyon. The lower canyon is comprised of steep hillsides where some travelers have been fortunate enough to spot the resident mountain goat. Wildlife can be spotted throughout the canyon which is home to turkeys, deer, elk and even mountain lions.

Midway up the canyon sits Boulder Canyon Country Club. The club is open to everyone and is a terrific place to stop and play a round of golf. After golfing 9 holes enjoy a beverage or meal in the Boulder Grille or on the deck!

The canyon widens out past the Country Club and your view is now filled with majestic pine trees and a smattering of aspen. Enjoy the view as you come to the top of the hill overlooking Deadwood and take in the grandeur of Terry Peak in the distance. Head down the hill into Deadwood and enjoy spending some time in this historic community.