One local hike that I have found and believe that you all must check out and learn a bit of history while you are at it is the Stratobowl, via the Stratobowl rim trail. In order to get to the Stratobowl rim trail, follow Hwy 16w South of Rapid City, the trailhead is just past the Conoco gas station on the right. It’s about 2 miles past Bear Country USA. Right after the turn off there is a gravel trail or fire access road, follow this trail for about an easy rolling one mile. It took me about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the lookout which gives you a great view of a giant sinkhole. From the lookout you can see a large area that almost looks like a naturally formed bowl in the middle of the woods.
The amazing story of how stratosphere history was made here is told in giant concrete tablets that stick out of the ground near the lookout. Since the Stratobowl site is 700 feet deep and 2 miles across the top there is no wind at the bottom which makes a perfect setting for an inflating giant helium balloon. This is why this site was chosen, in order to assist in the exploration of the earth’s atmosphere the Army Air Corps and the National Geographic Society got together they used this site known as the Stratocamp as a site to launch 2 giant helium balloons. The first one was launched in 1934; it made it 11 miles up before it fell to pieces. The second one was launched in 1935, and made it 14 miles up and then landed near White Lake, SD setting the world record at that time. This record was not broken until astronauts stated flying in to space. This exploration helped the Air Force build better planes and helped scientists build satellites.
This hike doesn’t only offer an excellent way to get out and enjoy the beautiful hills that we have surrounding us it also gives you the opportunity to learn a little something about the history of our area. So grab your family or a friend, make sure to bring a water bottle and a good pair of hiking shoes and go check out the Stratobowl and you will not regret it.