BLACK HILLS WEATHER
If you're planning to visit the Black Hills, it's essential to know what kind of weather you should expect and how to prepare for it. The Black Hills weather can be unpredictable, and it's always better to be over-prepared than underprepared.
Rapid City is located in Southwestern South Dakota, between the Black Hills to the west and Badlands National Park to the east. The Black Hills' proximity to the city can create unique weather occurrences that you should be prepared for, even on a sunny day.
The wind is the primary factor affecting the weather in the Black Hills. Chinook Winds come from the west down the slope of the mountains and through Rapid City, resulting in record-breaking temperature swings. It's common to experience near record-breaking wind speeds over 90mph, causing severe damage to those not prepared. These winds are also responsible for some of the most remarkable-sized hail, from golf ball to baseball size.
As a matter of fact, on January 22, 1943, at 7:30 AM, Spearfish, SD, was at a bone-chilling -4°F. Then, a chinook wind came in, and within two minutes, the temperature rose to 45°F. Then, in a sudden shift, the chinook winds stopped and the temperature returned to -4°F, all within a mere 27 minutes. That's crazy. There's more, though.
It's common to experience near record-breaking wind speeds over 90mph. These can come rather rapidly and cause severe damage to those not prepared. As a reference point, a record gust of 105 mph wind was recorded on November 6, 2008, equal to a category 2 hurricane!
On a side note, this is the first time I have experienced this with guests, and I never want to! These winds are also responsible for some of the most remarkable-sized hail. From gold ball to baseball size, the spring season brings the real potential for afternoon hailstorms. If you're renting a car, get hail insurance.
Most of this crazy weather occurs in spring and early summer but can happen at any time of year. It's part of what made life so difficult for the homesteaders out on the plains. With nothing to protect them, these early pioneers built earthen houses into the side of small hills to protect them from the weather.
Between Rapid City and the Badlands is an arid prairie land. The wind rolling over this area can be one of the most beautiful sights to see, but the aridness of the land can lead to dehydration. It's always essential to have plenty of water, and we make sure of that if you come along on one of our Tours of the Black Hills. The precipitation could be extreme either back then or now, and the spring season brings the real potential for afternoon hailstorms. If you're renting a car, get hail insurance.
Unfortunately, the aridness of the land can lead to dehydration. So it's always essential to have plenty of water, and we make sure of that if you come along on one of our Tours of the Black Hills.
It can be easy to forget that while discovering the Black Hills, you may be slightly higher in altitude than where you call home. The highest peak, Black Elk Peak (Formerly Harney Peak), rises out of the plains at an impressive 7242 feet. The sun is closer, the air thinner, and the temperature lower. Climbing stairs or taking a hike will be more challenging at those heights. Hydration is essential here.
The Black Hills weather varies significantly depending on the time of year you decide to visit. Check out the National Weather Service for the Black Hills to give you an idea of the average highs and lows throughout the year. Here's a general overview:
Spring brings the potential for afternoon hailstorms and rapid wind gusts. It's always a good idea to bring a windbreaker, sunscreen, and a reusable water bottle. Don't forget to pack shoes/boots with excellent grip, ankle support, and comfort.
Summer is usually mild, with temperatures in the 70s and low humidity. It's a great time to visit the Black Hills, but the evenings can get chilly. Pack layers that you can peel off in the afternoon and put back on in the evening. A hat and polarized sunglasses are also helpful.
Fall is a beautiful time to visit the Black Hills, with mild temperatures and beautiful foliage. Pack layers as the temperature can fluctuate throughout the day. Don't forget to bring a windbreaker and hiking shoes/boots.
Winter can be harsh in the Black Hills, with cold temperatures and snow. Be sure to pack warm clothing, a hat, gloves, and snow boots. It's also essential to have a good quality lotion that's not greasy and hydrates the skin.
What to Wear and Pack for the Black Hills
Here's a list of standard items to bring when visiting the Black Hills
It all depends on the time of year you decide to visit. To give you an idea of the average highs and lows throughout the year, check out the National Weather Service for the Black Hills. This will help you better understand the type of clothing to pack, but here are a few standard items to bring.
- Windbreaker - Easy to pack and carry.
- Sunscreen - You look cute with rosy red cheeks but don't want to be burnt to a crisp!
- Hiking shoes/boots - Few people give credence to this item. Generally, it's because everyone wants to look nice on their vacation. I'll take my picture in hiking boots rather than a leg brace any day. Do NOT go into the black hills with sandals or improper footwear. Proper footwear means a shoe sporting excellent grip, ankle support, and comfort. My favorites are either Merrell or Salomon. Both are high quality and even have a line of pretty stylish footwear.
- Layers. Pack clothing you can layer up in the morning, begin to peel off in the afternoon, and put back on in the evening.
- Reusable Water Bottle - We do our best for the environment out here, so where and when possible try one of these.
- Hat - Anything that will provide shade to the face and scalp. Get creative!
- Lotion - Hydration and skin care are essential. Bring a high-quality lotion that's not greasy and hydrates the skin.
- Polarized sunglasses - Not only is this good for the eyes, but it also enhances your vision. Colors and landscapes pop out, enhancing your experience.
Weather Tools That I use
Carrot Weather - One of the best, most accurate and insulting apps I've ever had. Great options, overlays, vectors and she slaps you around a bit when using her. I like an app with an attitude. Click on the link and meet Miss carrot.
- The Black Hills weather can be unpredictable, but with the right preparation, you can have a great time exploring this beautiful region. Remember to check the weather forecast before you go and pack appropriately. Stay safe and enjoy your trip!