Visitors to the large Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota say this hike is the park's best feature and the one thing you should make sure you do before you leave the park. Do note that to get to this trail you will have to pay the park's entry fee. There is no single-day pass, but you can pay $20 for a pass that's good for a week, or $30 for a pass that's good for a year.
The trail starts at a fork of rocky crags with steps bolted to them and proceeds to an area with large boulders you'll have to scramble over that can get wet and slippery at times. If your furry companion isn't particularly fleet-footed, you may need to assist them through this part of the trail. This area and the next can flood in spring and summer and you might need to traverse shin-deep water at times, so having two sets of footwear is a good idea if you don't like the idea of going barefoot. You may need to carry small pups who aren't fans of the water.
The effort is worth it—the adventure of climbing and scrambling will make you feel like a kid again, and all the while, you'll be taking in some spectacular scenery. Fall colors make the contrast between the foliage and the large black rocks especially striking, but any time of year you'll be taking in views of the shimmery lake, quiet mossy streams, gnarled networks of pine roots, and hidden waterfalls and pools.
The verdant forest at the trail's lower altitudes is such a contrast from the surrounding prairie you might feel like you've stumbled into a lost world. As you ascend, you'll pass through tall grass meadows scattered with aspen trees. You may spot a deer or two. From high points in the trail, you can see stark rock peaks emerging from the dense carpet of tall pines. Other rocks jut right out of the lake. This is like no other place you've seen. Spots like this make you glad that people have preserved and cared for them, and that you are able to share the beauty of the outdoors with your loyal hiking companion.