Black Hills Balloons was featured in Matador Network’s 8 ideas for your long weekend in Rapid City and the Black Hills. Below is what they said.
You probably know that the Black Hills are home to free-roaming bison and those famous granite faces. But here’s a surprise: The first people in history to fly high enough to see the curvature of the Earth launched their helium balloon here in 1935. (Consider that an expert-level trivia factoid for your impromptu pub crawling in Rapid City.)
Back in 1934, the US Army Air Corps and the National Geographic Society chose a compact plot of the Black Hills as the ideal location for their manned high-altitude balloon launch. They called it Stratocamp, later renaming it the Stratobowl. To celebrate and commemorate this colossal occasion, each year the Stratobowl Historic Hot Air Balloon Event is held on the exact site in Black Hills National Forest where that original balloon took flight decades ago. And it’s not just an over-and-done launch — you can spend the entire first weekend of September waking up to a South Dakota sky dotted with blazingly brilliant balloons.
Balloonists meet bright and early each day at 5:45am to take to the air. But note that the best views can’t be had from the launch site itself — instead, make time to hike the 1.7-mile trail to the Stratobowl Rim Trail overlook. If you get a later start, you could also head over to Reptile Gardens just outside of Rapid City, which is where the balloons land if the wind is just right.
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