Exploring the Parks and Nature Areas Around Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls has 76 named parks throughout the city that range from small sites suitable for neighborhood gatherings and playgrounds to large well developed nature centers such as Great Bear Recreational Park, Arrowhead Park, the Wegner Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historical Site, and the linked park system along the Big Sioux River. The state provides outdoor recreation areas and state parks including the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, Lake Alvin Recreation Area, Newton Hills State Park, and the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls that is a joint city/state operation.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Palisades State Park - Split Rock Creek Trail

It has been several years since we visited Palisades State Park, and then it was to wander along a short trail through great quartzite rock formations along the creek.  While these formations are stunning, we wanted to try out the longer hiking trail that begins in the picnic area south of the 1908 historic bridge and runs up and down the steep slopes and upstream along the course of Split Rock Creek past the camp lodge building.

The park manager at the Big Sioux Recreation Area recommended this hike to me yesterday, and we decided visit Palisades State Park this afternoon.

Palisades State Park is the second smallest park in the state.  The 157 acres of the park stretches a couple of miles, mostly on the eastern side of Split Rock Creek.  While the major rock formations for which the park is named are on the west side of the park, the camping and picnic areas and Split Rock Creek Trail are on the east side.

Split Rock Creek Trail begins in the parking lot along the “South Wall” and moves down a steep rocky slope and then back up to the historic bridge over the creek and along the road that leads to another hiking trail on the western side that passes through the rock formations.  

We set out heading upstream along a rocky trail that lead down to the creek and then continued north.  The trail varied from an easy pathway to a more rugged climb up and down the rocky slope.  The climb was more than our little miniature poodle could easily handle, and it became necessary at times for me to carry him along in my arms.

Part of the pathway was easy walking along the creek, only to enter another series of climbs over rocky terrain as we continued upstream.

There are great views from elevated points along the pathway.  My wife, Marsha, was apprehensive about our dog falling down a crevice or over a cliff and landing either in the rocks or in the creek. 

The trail continues past a large lodge owned by the park department and rented for large gatherings.  The lodge is up on a hill overlooking the creek valley, and the trail moves past an entrance up the slope to the building.  Continuing north, the end of the park comes into view with some private homes situated just upstream. 

At that point, we returned along a groomed trail and went up the slope to visit the lodge site.  That was a good point to give our little dog some water and the take stock of out progress.  It took us about 45 minutes to hike to the northern end of the park and then back to the lodge. 

We descended back down the trail to the creek and walked south until locating a trail that lead up the hill to the camping area along a paved road through the park.  There are a number of camping cabins along this road, and we walked along until we got to the parking lot downstream from the historic bridge. 

Our walk this morning was about one and a-half hours.  There was a lot of up-and-down climbing along the rocky pathway as well as a good long walk along the entire trail and paved road back to the parking lot.  Our legs were tired, and we felt that we had a great workout on the hike.  I would classify the path we took as one of the more rugged in the area.

We saw two other parties hiking through the park; otherwise, we seemed to be alone.  There was some birdlife to observe during our walk, most notably a hawk roaming about over the surface of the creek.

Palisades State Park is located near Garretson, maybe 20 miles or so from our eastside Sioux Falls home.  The trail we took was a great hike, and we enjoyed it very much.  In the past I have visited the rock formations and will again stroll through that fascinating landscape on our next visit. 

The full set of photographs of this hike can be found on my Flickr account at the following URL:

Further information from the SDGFP can be found at the following URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment