South Dakota Hiking, Nature January 22, 2018
The Epic South Dakota Trail That’s Perfect For A Winter Adventure
Hikers and nature enthusiasts will find plenty of fantastic hiking trails all over the state, and many offer spectacular views. The best view ever might be from Black Elk Peak, South Dakota’s highest point. Winter is an especially good time for this hike – the view is just as incredible, and you’re likely to find a bit of solitude on the trail.
Start your hike from Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
With any luck, you'll be one of the few hikers on the trail. During the year, 41,000 people take this hiking trail, but only around 3,000 make the trek between the months of November and March. You just might find that you have the place to yourself!
The hike is about seven miles round trip and is considered moderately difficult.
During winter months, it's a good idea to bring along some YakTrax or other traction cleats. Depending on the weather, the trail can be slick in spots.
This trail takes about a half day for most hikers to complete, and you'll gain 1,407 feet in elevation along the way.
Bring plenty of water, and dress in layers for any weather condition.
Make sure to pick a clear winter day for this hike - check the weather before you leave. You don't want to encounter a storm at the top of Black Elk Peak.
This trail, and Black Elk Peak itself, are sacred to the Lakota people. Black Elk, a legendary medicine man, climbed this peak when he was just nine years old, and had a life-changing vision.
In the book
Black Elk Speaks, he says, "I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world," he is quoted as saying. "And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being."
Please remember that this is a sacred place. Don't disturb prayer cloths and other items that are tied to trees, and make sure that you carry out any trash you carry in.
At the top of the peak, you'll find a fire lookout tower.
As you approach, you'll be traveling up a stone staircase. Take extra care here in the winter months, because crosswinds and cold weather can make these steps slippery...and it's a long way down.
The tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1932. It's no longer in use, but you can check it out.
The view from the top is spectacular, even in the winter.
It's easy to see why this place is special to the native people of South Dakota. At 7,272 feet, it's pretty amazing up here.
Have you ever hiked Black Elk Peak during the winter? Share your pics with us!
If you’re looking for more winter trails, take a look at
this trail that’s even more breathtaking in the winter.