Botany Canyon Trip 2021

I researched Botany Canyon as a place to hike on, youtube, and a trail guide I got at the visitor center on I-90. It looked like you're supposed to park along High Meadows Drive, outside Summerset. There are no signs there, but I recognized it from photos I'd seen. Basically there's a dirt road that goes off to the right of High Meadows Drive that is closed from October through May to motorized travel. I would NOT go off the drive here with anything but a trail bike or some 4WD vehicle when it's legal to.

I finally decided where to park my motorcycle in the area that might fit 4 or 5 cars. One car was there already.

First, this is a route you need to study before you go. There's nothing simple about it and in fact on one of the youtube videos the hikers went about 2 miles out of their way by missing a turnoff. There are no signs at all explaining the trail. So I'll try to be clear in directions as I can as it was when I hiked. And I'll assume you're parking on High Meadows Drive rather than using your dirt bike, or 4WD vehicle to drive closer in (June through September only).

When you start the hike on the crappy jeep trail, you'll go a few hundred feet when you come to a dirt road. Go left. Take a look back at where you're connecting so it will be familiar when you are coming back. There will be a canyon overlook on your right after about 15 minutes so you can see into the canyon. A bit farther you have to watch for several large boulders side by side on the right of the road. This is where you turn right to go into the canyon. It took me about 25 minutes to get to this (again unmarked) spot, which I could have gotten to on my motorcycle, but oh well.

Now you're on an ATV trail, though there are no motorized vehicles allowed from here on. There are a couple of wooden blockades to prevent ATVs from using the trial. The trail is steep and rocky in places. Finally it winds downhill to a jeep trail that goes along the creek bed. Notice your surroundings here because you need to find this spot to hike back out. The jeep trail goes both left and right here. there are 2 orange fence poles to help you recognize this spot. Go right, or downstream, on this jeep trail. It was dry when I was there in July.

Keep an eye on your left for some small cemented rock pillars next to a "No Motorized Vehicles" sign. This is where you turn off on a foot trail to go into the actual Botany Canyon. And here, finally, is where things look much diffferent.

stream crossing
crossing the stream

This foot trail is again not marked in any way, and is hard to follow at times. A stream starts not far down the trail, and you are basically crisscrossing over this stream since the canyon is so narrow. You just need to stop once in a while and look around a bit to find where the trail continues. I went about 1/2 hour down stream until I couldn't see a trail anymore.

mossy creek
lotsa moss

Toward the beginning of the trail is a wider flat area that seems to have been used for camping. If you look at the cliff next to here, you'll see that the stream just pops out of the bottom of the cliff somehow. From here on have your cameras ready! What you're going to see in this canyon is a lush, mossy stream with thick vegetation. It was humid and cool when I was there, on a 90 degree day. It felt comfortable but I was also sweating quite a bit. The terrain here seems more like an Oregon forest than the Black Hills, with more moss and such vegetation. I assume this is because the canyon is so steep and narrow that it gets less sun and wind and thus keeps its moisture.

pano of creek

There were only 2 other people the whole 4 hours it took for me to make the round trip, but then this was a hot day and a work day. About the only animals I encountered were birds and butterflies.

Of course, going out is the hard part because you're going uphill pretty much all the way. So be sure to allot more time for going out than coming in.
Just reverse my directions above and you should be ok finding your way out. I did not use any app like or anything while there, so those would probably be helpful (there is no cell phone reception in the canyon though). I just relied on research before I went.

rocks and moss

the road out
the road out