7 Mile Hike to Harney Peak Summit, South Dakota
Jenna and I stopped at Custer State Park on our way out to Yellowstone National Park last week. We enjoyed watching the buffalo and playing with the “begging burrows” that would come up to your car, stick their head in the window and expect you to feed them lol. We got out of the vehicle and played with them for a little bit, they were pretty cute 🙂
Afterwards, we headed Northwest up to Sylvan Lake and rode our bikes around to check out the lake, cool rock formations and trails. Afterwards, we found the Harney Peak Trailhead and went back to our vehicle to pack up and start our adventure to the summit!
It was pretty difficult and took us hours to get up to the top. We were kinda rushed and exhausted because we were losing daylight and wanted to get some cool sunset pictures at the highest point in South Dakota! By the time we got up there, the sun was just setting. The views were amazing and the 3 story castle was beautiful. It wasn’t really part of our plan but it turned out to be an amazing experience that I will never forget!
The rush up to the top was worth it…. but the downside is that it took us 3 HOURS to get down the mountains in the pitch dark. We had a headlamp but that only lights up a circle in front of you. We had no idea what kind of animals were in the area. Bears and mountain lions could be anywhere… and I forgot my bear spray and my gun in the car. We were exhausted and locked elbows to hold each other up if we slipped and fell on the loose rocks. We made it safely with a few twisted ankles but I would do it again in a heartbeat 🙂
You can read some information about Harney Peak below and view some of our favorite pictures from the hike!
Information about Harney Peak, South Dakota
At 7,242 feet, Harney Peak stands prominently as the highest point in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. Standing sentinel over the Black Hills, Harney Peak is topped by a stone fire tower providing a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. Nestled in a designated wilderness area, and surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest, it is accessible by hiking a 7 mile trail starting from Custer State Park.
The granite highpoint is sacred ground to Native Americans, especially the Sioux Lakota. It was upon this peak towering over the Lakota Nation that a young Black Elk experienced a vision. Many years later he would recount that vision publicly as he evolved as a respected elder and medicine man.
The historic Harney Peak fire lookout tower built upon the remote summit remains as an abandoned shell and is open to the public. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930’s, the primary building material was native stone that was manually hauled the three miles to the summit.
Harney Peak has served witness to a wide variety of historical events and people. General Custer famously attempted to ride his horse to the summit, and nearly made it. Burros were once used to transport visitors along the rugged trail. Harney Peak was being considered for a majestic mountain carving, when Gutzon Borglum eyed the barren Mount Rushmore in the distance and determined it was perfectly fit for the presidential carving.
The Black Hills Region is speckled with grand monuments, forested hillsides, rolling plains, abundant wildlife and granite spirals. Hiking trails meander through the Black Hills providing an opportunity to see the natural wonders up close. The many cities and towns throughout the Hills provide a wide variety of lodging, restaurants and shopping experiences.