Bison Encounter While Hiking Cold Brook Canyon Trail
Cold Brook Canyon Trail is a 2.8 mile out and back trail located along Route 385 approximately 1 mile south of the Wind Cave National Park visitor center. The trailhead sign is small and located off the road at the small parking lot so pay close attention while driving by or you might miss it…we did.
The trail takes you through Cold Brook Canyon and ends at the park boundary. I mean they call it a canyon, but it just looked like a giant meadow to me. There were a couple rock walls at the beginning and end, but not much.
You will walk through some dense ponderosa trees at the start of the hike and trees also line the grassland. There is only about 200 feet in elevation gain during this hike. All of that elevation gain is at the beginning of the trail. The rest of your hike is on easy, flat terrain. There is no shade coverage so make sure you have proper sun protection.
There were a lot of wildflowers spread among the tall grasses and the little pops of color were so pretty. Neither of us were too excited with the hike so far though and thought it was just ok. I think we have become jaded with our hiking trips. Earlier this year we had the opportunity to visit some epic trails and nothing seems to compare now.
Then we came to the prairie dog town. The trail actually crosses right through the middle of their colony. As we walked by a lot of chirping could be heard from little heads poking up out of their holes. Prairie dogs are just adorable even if they do have the possibility to carry the plague.
Apparently this is a hot spot for multiple species of raptors. I’m sure the prairie dogs make tempting meals. We didn’t see any during or visit, but that would of been cool.
We actually didn’t get to finish the trail. We had made it about 1.2 miles in when we had to turn around.
Why would we leave when we were so close to completion you might ask?
Well, because we just happened to scare the sh*t out of a giant sleeping bison!
We were just trotting along when Jamey happened to notice something off to the side of the trail ahead. It only took us a moment to realize it was a bison taking an afternoon nap on the side of the trail. We made the decision to give it a wide berth and continue on.
Yeah, that was a stupid move!
We had just started moving again when the bison suddenly jumped up and started looking around all crazy like. He swung around really fast until he was staring at us and grunted. It was obvious he had been sound asleep and we had startled him pretty good.
We were still a good distance off from the massive beast and decided we had seen enough of Cold Brook Canyon and turned around. He watched us very intently until we were no longer in view. Gotta say, his heart was probably beating just as fast as ours. I know how freaked out I’ve been after being woken up from a deep sleep. I’m sure he felt the same way.
So after our close call we headed back to the truck. The prairie dogs yelled at us again as we walked through their town and the tall grasses swayed in the wind. We were reaching the end of the trail when once again we had to come to a stop.
Standing in the middle of the trail right before you start walking back up the hill to the trailhead stood a giant bison. He looked at us…we looked at him…he went back to grazing right in the middle of the trail. So once again our hike had been interrupted by a bison. After a moment or two he decided to move on. Walking so slow I’m pretty sure a turtle could pass him he eventually was far enough off the trail that we could continue on.
So there concludes our crazy bison encounters.
Cold Brook Canyon Trail is a good hike. It’s easy, not that long and you get to experience a diverse landscape. I’m gonna go with the real reason to add this hike to your trip though is the opportunity for possible wildlife encounters. You’re guaranteed to see some prairie dogs, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a bison or two, and you just might get to see a raptor flying overhead.
Who doesn’t love an epic wildlife encounter?
Half of the reason people visit national parks are for the wildlife encounters. I know it’s one of our favorite parts. Seeing these magnificent creatures in the wild is amazing, but you need to be responsible viewers. This is the closest “dangerous” encounter we have ever had so I thought I would just list some basic safety precautions below to keep you and our furry friends safe.
- * Feeding wildlife is illegal in all national parks.
- * Wildlife may be present on park roads at any time of day or night so be alert while driving
and obey all speed limits.
- * Do not approach any wild animal. Visitors must stay at least 25 yards away from all
- * Spotlighting is not permitted in the park.
- * Never try to pet a wild animal.
- * Always walk, don’t run. Running away from wildlife screams “prey.”