You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about Black Hills hiking than Seth Courtney. Seth, known to Instagram as @gentlesasquatch, is a photo-savvy hiker who shares his adventures with his hundreds of followers. His images show him relaxing in a hammock in the forest, standing at the top of a mountain with his trusty pups, and scenic shots of the views of the Black Hills. While his following isn’t huge enough to warrant Instagram stardom, he is followed by many local photographers and tourists!
The Montana native realized that the Black Hills are a perfect hiking area. He initially began hiking as an alternative to going to the gym, but the serene beauty kept drawing him into more and more hikes.
“I use hiking as a little break from reality–no cell service, practice some meditation, or grounding once I get to my lookout point. The Black Hills are perfect for hiking, because they are so accessible. I can literally leave my house in Spearfish, and be on a trail in the Canyon in less than ten minutes. You just can’t beat that,” stated Seth.
His favorite hikes in the Black Hills are in Spearfish Canyon, like Community Caves. His four-legged friends Hope and Heidi like to run around and explore the area with him. While some areas, like Bear Butte, don’t allow dogs on trails, he doesn’t mind because he always makes sure to look up dog and leash restrictions before hitting the trails.
South Dakota has harsh winters, but that doesn’t stop Seth from enjoying the trails. Community Caves is especially beautiful in the winter, as the waterfall that runs over the caves freezes over, making for a beautiful winter wonderland scene. Black Elk Peak is another of his favorite winter hikes because of how established it is.
When hiking in the winter, he emphasizes the need to add layers and be safe by letting people know where you’re going and being back before sunset.
“Always have several layers when you hike in the winter, as you’ll get warm while hiking, and shed layers, but be sure to put your layers back on before you’re actually cool. Once you get cold, you may have to start moving to get warm again. Also, always let someone know where you’re heading if you’re going alone. Accidents happen, especially in the winter, and you may not have cell service on the trail,” he explained. “Watch the sun, too. The sun goes down much earlier in the winter, so plan to be back before the sun goes down, or pack a headlamp.”
When he isn’t hiking, Seth loves visiting the many breweries in the Black Hills.
“There’s Crow Peak Brewery in Spearfish, and Miner Brewing Company in Hill City, and several others in between! Each one’s unique and different, and always with a stop after a long day of hiking!”