Looking for a fairly easy trail with high reward? Rankin Ridge is a one mile loop that starts in a shady pine forest, leads up to an overlook with incredible views and a fire tower, then deposits you back in the parking lot.
You reach this trail by driving on Highway 87 between Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park near Custer, South Dakota. There is a parking lot right off of Hwy 87 where you can view the fire tower but in order to hike the trail you’ll need to follow the road next to the parking lot (not Hwy 87) a little ways further up in order to reach the trailhead parking.
Once you are parked you will easily find the start of the trail. It is well marked with a trail sign which will give you a little additional information about animals and the fire tower.
This trail is so much fun. It does go uphill for about the first .50 miles but it is not too difficult, the pine trees smell amazing and you’ll come across several areas with overlooks and some sweet stairs carved out of rock. Every .10 of a mile or so there was something new. I loved it.
You’ll know when you’ve reached the top of the ridge because the forest immediately drops away and you are rewarded with views that stretch for miles and miles. On a clear day you can even see all the way to Badlands National Park which is forty miles away.
The fire tower is obviously the star of the show here. You can climb up the stairs but the door leading into the tower itself is locked shut. Nevertheless, a cool destination.
I took a lunch up to the top and enjoyed it while taking in the views. Definitely worth a twenty minute stop.
Take your time on the way back down as it is all downhill. Nothing difficult to navigate here and this trail is great for kids. You’ll come out of a gate at the bottom of the hill and be deposited right back in the parking lot again.
Here’s the rundown:
- Short – One mile
- Mildly difficult in the beginning if you aren’t in okay shape – Uphill
- High reward – Great views, fire tower
- Good for kids, dogs not allowed.