The massive forest fires that swept the Pine Ridge region in 2012 hit Chadron State Park pretty hard. Fortunately, the forest in the state park had been thinned several years ago, and the destruction was not nearly so bad as in the national forest areas adjacent to the park. The park was closed to hiking for several weeks after the fire. But, all areas are open again, and the majority of the cleanup is expected to be done by the end of February, 2013.
Getting ThereTo get to Chadron State Park, travel south of Chadron on Highway 385 about 8 miles, to Chadron State Park. It would probably help if you stopped at the state park headquarters and asked for a park trail map (free), plus any other questions you might have about trails, camping, or other facilities.
While one has several options to do this trail loop, the best is probably by starting at the Pine Cone Butte Shelter. Walk east down the road a few hundred yards and take the trail on the right. The access trail is short and you will come to a fork. Take the right fork onto the Cabin Trail and follow the path and markers (blue). Eventually, you will come to a trail junction with the Spotted Tail Trail (yellow markers). Go left, and follow the combined trailways to the cabin area. There, you will again find a junction. Take the right trail behind the cabin area. About a quarter mile down the trail, you will cross the park's paved road loop. From there, you will find the trail bearing mostly south until you get to the bottom of a draw.
At the bottom of the draw, there are some "no trespassing" signs. These mean you should not venture off the trail. The state park has easement rights to use the trail, so please stay on it at least until you come to national forest land (marked). There is a national forest trail loop to the left, if you need some extra hiking time. People in the area often call the area you are now hiking, Lebo Canyon.
Eventually, the trail begins a slow ascent that will take you to a road crossing. This road is a short paved section on the mostly unpaved road out to the Black Hills Overlook point. But, instead of going down that road, take the mowed pathway almost directly across the road. It will take you on a pleasant route down to the Sawmill Shelter Area. At Sawmill Shelter, you will find a vault toilet and a picnic shelter. To get back to your starting point at Pine Cone Butte, go left on the roadway and you should arrive there in 10 to 15 minutes.
Essential GearUnless you go during the winter, when your selection of gear would be dictated by how much snow was on the ground and how cold it was, you will need only what you would normally take on a 2 to 4 hour hike.
Suggestions would include water, appropriate shoes or boots, hat, hiking pole, sunscreen, tick repellent from the spring to mid-summer, compass, map, rain gear if the forecast is questionable, and a camera.
External LinksFor more information, check out Chadron State Park's website at:
Chadron State Park
You may reach the park headquarters at: (308) 432-6167
You can download a state park map from the Chadron Wellness website at: