Black Elk Peak

Place Name: Custer State Park

Place Description: State: South Dakota
Date: 10/28/2018
Elevation: 7,231 Feet
Prominence: 2,911 Feet
Miles: 8.6
Elevation Gain: 1,100 Feet
Lists: US 50 State High Point

  • Difficulty
  • Solitude
  • Kid Friendly
  • Summit Views






  • Well marked trails
  • Beautiful Scenery
  • Wildlife Abundant


  • Lots of hikers
  • Limited Parking
  • Developed Summit

Beautiful hike while visiting the Black Hills today. We started out in the early morning at Sylvan Lake and took Trail 9 up. All the signs stated this hike was strenuous, but I found it to be pretty easy. The elevation gain was spread out well over the course of 3 miles and there were no major leg burning sessions that I’m accustomed to in the Sierras. Hiking at these lower elevations also helped me a lot. Trail 9 is well marked and very popular. There was no solitude whatsoever. Along the way you will reach the sign for the Black Elk Wilderness and you need to self register here. The trail meanders through the trees and impressive rock formations while it gains a high ridge and a turn off. We followed the signs to the left which took us towards the massive rock that is Black Elk Peak. Once in here, you will navigate through little tunnels and staircases before popping out into a rock stairwell that leads you up the lookout tower. Once up here, you are at the highest point in South Dakota and have amazing views  in all directions. This is my first U.S. State High Point! It took us a few hours to get up here, but we were hiking with my 7-year old son and 5-year old daughter. Me and my son crawled up and over the granite and stood on McGillicuddy Peak as well. Just a short 10-minute jaunt from the lookout.

On the descent, we took Trail 4 to make it a loop hike. This trail descended through open forest and down to some awesome needle rock formations. The terrain went back into moss covered forest and then into open meadows. Very pretty hike and a bit longer than Trail 9. Little Devil’s Tower is along this route and would have been a nice summit to gain if we had more time. This trail popped out at a different parking lot, which confused us for a second. Stay on the trail above the parking lot and follow it a ways more back to the Sylvan Lake parking lot. There wasn’t much signage here and I had to use the GPS track I downloaded on the Peak Bagger app.

This was a spectacular fall hike. We had great weather and amazing views. The kids were amazing on this hike and set personal records for their distance on a trail. If you are in South Dakota visiting the Black Hills, you should definitely look into this!