Four Reasons to Ride Vanocker Canyon


Four Reasons to Ride Vanocker Canyon

Listed as one of the four most scenic drives in the Black Hills, Vanocker Canyon Road is a lovely, relaxing drive.  You won’t find any sharp turns or short stops here; gentle curves and rolling hills abound throughout this 17-mile mountain road loop. If you’re interested in catching a true swatch of the Black Hills, here are four reasons why Vanocker Canyon is worth the ride.

The Black Hills

Lovers of mountain road rides will get their eyeful on this peaceful, wooded journey through the Hills.  There are plenty of stop-off points, and lots of gorgeous photo ops for all the nature photographers.  It is an especially beautiful drive when the fall colors come out to play.  While the Black Hills doesn’t enjoy the colorful vibrance of the northeastern side of the country, our graceful stands of golden birch and aspen against the backdrop of dark pine makes for a very pretty picture.  Click here for a map of the canyon.

Amazing Trails

Whether you’re just looking for a nice, easy stroll through the woods or you’re ready to tough it out and get some serious handlebar time, the trails off Vanocker Canyon offer endless options.  The Deadman Trail System trailhead is located just off Exit 32, at the junction of Vanocker Canyon Road and Pineview Drive.  Over four miles long round trip, this trail is definitely for more advanced hikers and mountain bikers.  Points of interest along the way include old dams that were used to supply water to the city of Sturgis.  Deadman’s Trail connects with both Centennial Trail and 7th Cavalry Trails, both of which are excellent for mountain biking.  There are well over 50 miles of trails to enjoy for hikers, mountain bikers, snow shoeing, ATV riding and more!  Click here for a comprehensive listing of trails, their descriptions, maps, and trail reviews.

Wonderland Cave

Spelunker or not, Wonderland Cave is a must-visit while you’re staying in Sturgis.  Just under a 30-minute drive through Vanocker Canyon, this limestone cavern was discovered in 1929 by two loggers looking for their lost dog.  At first, the men mined the cave for gold, but the real “gold” came when they decided to open the cave up for commercial touring.  Visitors will see the largest variety of crystal formations, as well as some of rarest, in the world: Flowstone, Calcite Lily Pads, Helictites, Stalactites and Ribbon Stalactites, Dogtooth Spar Crystals, Stalagmites, and Boxwork, Popcorn, and Frost Crystals are just some of the formations you will see on the one-hour tour.  For those who have difficulty with stairs, there is a “history-centric” tour of the main cavern.  Up in the gift shop, you can browse for crystal souvenirs to your heart’s content, and be sure to visit the Candy Cavern to satisfy your sweet tooth.  When you go, wear comfortable, rubber-soled shoes, and be sure to take a fall jacket as the cave stays at a constant 47 degrees.  

All Roads Lead Back to Sturgis

One of the nicest things about Vanocker Canyon is all the options.  If you’re looking for a short drive, simply touring Vanocker Canyon Road both ways can be enough to ease your wanderlust.  If you want to catch a bigger slice of the Black Hills, Vanocker Canyon is your portal to hop on your bike and take a longer tour.  From Vanocker, you can loop through the Hills, passing through the small but picturesque town of Nemo.  From there take Norris Peak Road to Hwy 385, which leads you to Strawberry Hill and eventually into Deadwood.  Taking Boulder Canyon out of Deadwood leads you right back to Sturgis and your comfy room at the Baymont Inn & Suites.  There are plenty of stops along the way – the Nemo Guest Ranch and Brandin’ Iron Restaurant, while open seasonally, are great places to stop; or you could grab a burger at the Boondocks, which is a fun, 50s-themed diner and memorabilia store.  Once your ride is done, be sure to plan on popping into Baymont Inn & Suites classy new in-house venue, 44 North Whiskey & Seltzer Bar.  You can relax at the end of your day of touring with a delicious whiskey or seltzer drink, not to mention a yummy end-of-night pizza.

When you stay in Sturgis, there are so many things to do and see - Vanocker Canyon, with all its scenic beauty, should be at the top of your list!