I’ve heard that Cement Ridge in western Wyoming is the best place in the Black Hills to see the aspen if they’re turning color. After visiting the ridge in early October, I’d have to say that if it’s not the best place, it’s got to be the second best. The views are absolutely stunning when the aspens are turning, and the rest of the year the views would also be very nice. I’ve heard that in mid-summer the wildflowers are fantastic, and are well worth seeing. It’s the kind of view that you look at and say, “Wow.” Then you turn around and look in the next direction and say, “Wow.” And again, “Wow.”
To get to Cement Ridge from Sundance, take I-90 east to exit 191. From here on out, the roads are dirt, although most of them are passable by a low-clearance vehicle, at least in dry weather. Go south on Moskee Road (known by some as Road 141—I never saw a number on it) for about 10 miles and then turn left on Road 875, Grand Canyon Road (again, I don’t recall seeing a number on this road). Follow this road until the road forks, with Grand Canyon Road going right, and Road 804 going left (here I did see a number!). Take the left fork, and drive until you see a brown sign on the right pointing towards Cement Ridge, 2 miles. Turn left at this junction onto Road 850. At this point, if you are driving a low clearance vehicle, you may want to hike up the road to the peak and fire tower. The road from this point on is quite steep and rocky.
To get to the ridge from Spearfish, take Highway 14A towards Savoy. At the lodge/visitor center, turn right on Road 222, and follow this road to Road 105. As I recall, you will come to a T in the road, and you will want to turn left. Continue to follow Road 105 straight (there are several roads named 105 in this section :-z) until you reach Road 804. Turn west (I believe that’s right) on Road 804 and follow it until you see a brown sign on your left indicating that Cement Ridge is 2 miles to the right. Turn right to follow Road 850 to the top, or park your low-clearance vehicle at the bottom of the road, and hike to the top. All of the roads are closed in winter, and are part of the Black Hills Snowmobile Trail System.
Near the top of the road is a visitor parking area next to the primitive toilets. From here you can get out and look at the view down across the meadow and into the forests below, or you can walk up to the fire tower itself. Built by the CCCs in the early 1940s, the tower replaced the original wooden structure that was built on the site in the 1920s. Signboards inside the door marked “Wind Shelter” tell about the two fire towers, and other information about the Black Hills National Forest. Don’t let the stiffness of the door deter you; if the top is sticking, push a little harder. It can lock, but that’s in the middle of the door, not at the top.
The day we visited, a ranger was in the tower, looking out for forest fires. It would be a great place to look from, because Cement Ridge is higher than just about anything else in that area. You can see for miles and miles in just about every direction. The view encompasses most of the Black Hills, including Crow Peak, Inyan Kara Mountain, Terry Peak, Custer Peak, Spearfish Peak, Rattlesnake Canyon, Wyoming’s Grand Canyon, Wagonwheel Canyon, and Old Baldy Mountain, which we had hiked to the top of several years earlier while visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota. Speaking of South Dakota, Cement Ridge is located just less than 5 miles from the Wyoming/South Dakota border, so most of what you can see to the east is a different state than the one you are standing in.
Cement Ridge is on Wyoming’s list of 100 Most Remote Peaks, so it’s worth considering getting a good map if you plan to visit the region (I found that Microsoft Streets & Maps did a good job with the roads in South Dakota, but in Wyoming it was extremely hard to follow, with different road numbers/names etc., especially when coming from Sundance). Be sure to stock up on gas and other supplies before setting out.
- 2:08 PM MST on December 13, 2017
- 12:00 PM MST on December 14, 2017
Wednesday Wed Dec 13 80%
Late night snow. Lows overnight in the low 20s.
Thursday Thu Dec 14 70%
Mainly cloudy with snow showers around in the morning. High 26F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Snow accumulations less than one inch.
Friday Fri Dec 15 0%
Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High 44F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph.
Saturday Sat Dec 16 70%
Light snow during the morning will transition to snow showers during the afternoon. High 28F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 70%. 1 to 3 inches of snow expected.
Sunday Sun Dec 17 10%
A few passing clouds, otherwise generally sunny. High 29F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.