If there’s snow, the buzz of snowmobile engines rules the Hills. On winter weekends, trailers loaded with bullet-nosed "sleds" fill the region’s parking lots. During Presidents Day weekend last year (the busiest sledding time), an estimated 18,000 riders raced through the Hills; South Dakotans own only about 12,000 snowmobiles.
This scene’s unofficial headquarters is Trailshead Lodge, a roadhouse-looking joint on US-85 near the Wyoming line with plywood floors, a short-order cook, rental cabins and sleds and an impressive display of shoulder patches left by snowmobile clubs.
The lodge anchors four trails, and during the last Presidents Day weekend, it sold 1,700 burgers and a tanker truck full of sled fuel. A more luxurious snowmobile magnet is the Spearfish Canyon Lodge, a classic log hideaway on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, where guests dine on dishes like trout amandine but still park sleds outside their rooms.
On the canyon trails running out of the lodge’s parking lot, it’s obvious why so many snowmobilers consider Black Hills riding some of the country’s best. The trails hug the canyon walls and ramble along sparkling trout streams, and they are smoother than some sidewalks, thanks to crews that groom nearly the entire system each night. Reflective diamond markers appear every 100 yards or so, and at each junction, a map of the trail system includes a "you are here" arrow.