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Willow Creek Horse Camp

Iron Creek Horse Camp


A group of riders gathers in front of Palmer Gulch Lodge before a ride to the top of Harney Peak. The photograph predates the establishment of the Mt. Rushmore KOA by about 30 years.


Trail Riding in the Black Hills has always been popular, since the days of the cowboy and the miner. It was especially popular at Palmer Gulch Lodge from the early thirties until the late sixties. Our family grew up on horseback, and learned the trails blazed by my grandfather--the Palmer Gulch Trail to Elkhorn Mountain and Harney Peak; the Nelson Creek trail; trips to Pfanders ranch to run the horses through the pastures lain fallow, Bootleggers Cabin, the Golden Slipper mine, the Lost Cabin...

Many of these trails are still in use today, and are joined by an extensive network within the Norbeck Preserve, the Black Elk Wilderness and Custer State Park. (Trails near the Sylvan Lake watershed are now closed to horses.) Trail ride operators will still take you and your family riding, and the experience of seeing the Hills from horseback is unforgettable. Smitty's Trail Rides, at the Mt. Rushmore KOA is a good place to start.


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