The Strato Bowl is the best of both worlds for us: Hiking for me, aviation for Mike. It was the such a fun Labor Day outing. We got some exercise, enjoyed incredible views and learned something new about aviation history.
The Stratobowl is a small, flat valley completely surrounded by the Black Hills where some of the first early manned balloon flights were launched in the 1930s. In 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere from this location to a record 72,395 feet. The Explorer II flight proved man could survive the altitude in a pressurized capsule, an important part of the space program and our quest to walk on the moon. Since then, the Stratobowl has hosted aviation pioneers Ed Yost, Steve Fossett, Troy Bradley and others.
The view is spectacular. There are few places where you will see such an interesting view including pine-covered hills, wide blue skies and the small stream that winds through that peculiar flat valley nestled between the Hills.
Dogs are welcome on this 1.7-mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back trail. To get there, take Mount Rushmore Road into the Black Hills (16). Stay on 16 past Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA. Just past the service station is a small parking area on the right-hand side (westbound), marked by powerlines.