The Lost Cabin Trail (also designated as Trail #2 by the Forest Service) is a five-mile out-and-back trail in the Black Hills National Forest that is most commonly hiked as a fifteen-mile loop with the Harney Peak Trail (Trail #9). The trails connect at the top of the mountain, which has since been renamed Black Elk Peak. Near Mount Rushmore, The Lost Cabin Trail is a better option for adventurers looking for solitude and a rigorous workout. Ascents through dense pine forests lead to breathtaking views from the highest peak in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. A historic stone fire tower sits at the top of the rocky knob, where hikers can enjoy 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding countryside. The Lost Cabin Trail is not as well-known as the Harney Peak Trail, and is less crowded in the peak season.
The Lost Cabin Trail hike, whether done as an out-and-back hike or in a loop with the Harney Peak Trail, abounds with the things that make most hikers' "Most Wanted" lists: beautiful mountain views, abundant wildlife, and rich flora, including wildflowers in an array of striking colors. Among the wildlife species that have been spotted here include mountain goats and mountain lions. You might also hear the rattle of a woodpecker hunting for the pine beetles that have thinned some of the forest. Rock formations pepper the landscape, from jagged needles jutting from the distant hills to smooth domes and piles of boulders stacked near the trail.
In some places, the woods give way to meadows of tall golden grass. These places make good spots to set up camp. Between the trail's length and challenging elevation gain, it's not a bad idea to bring camping gear. Dispersed camping is allowed in Black Hills National Forest, though be mindful of the Forest Service's rules and restrictions: campfires are not allowed outside of specific designated places in this fire-prone forest. Good thing you brought along your best snuggle buddy to keep you warm!