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Hiking

So many species roam free in the wildlife preserve of Custer State Park. Miles of trails and backcountry roads are yours to explore with them.

The Best of Black Hills Hiking Awaits

Hiking draws enthusiasts from far and wide to the Black Hills and Custer State Park is home to some of the most memorable hikes. Hike along lakeshores, spelunk over boulders, or look up admire the grand pines and aspens that blanket the hills. The best hiking in the Black Hills awaits at Custer State Park.

Hikes in the Park

The Black Hills is a hotspot for hiking in South Dakota. Custer State Park features some of the best trails for hikers of all abilities. Scamper over boulders in Sunday Gulch near Sylvan Lake, admire the Ponderosa Pines along Lover's Leap, or take a lazy stroll along Stockade Lake.

Explore Custer State Park's guide to the best hikes and begin planning.

Hiking Guide

Best Hikes In Custer State Park

Black Elk Peak

Black Elk Peak via Harney Peak Trail is a 6.4 mile loop trail in Custer State Park, offering the highest available views of the rocky land that makes up the Black Hills and also includes a heart-pumping incline to a historic stone fire tower at the top. Your starting point for this trail is at popular Sylvan Lake that offers stand-up paddling, kayaking and canoe rentals. Find Trail 9, which begins just across the footbridge leading to the swimming beach. Plan 4-5 hours for this trail, and the lakeside store is available for snacks, gifts & lunch.

Length: 7 mile loop
Time: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

Cathedral Spires

Also located at Sylvan is the shorter and more moderate hike to Cathedral Spires. This 1.6 mile trail winds through beautiful pine forest before reaching a rocky outcropping that leads you to an up close look of the Cathedral Spires. This trail is a great one if you are looking for something shorter that will offer beautiful views of the Black Hills and surrounding prairie-lands.

Length: 1.6 miles, one way
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Lover’s Leap Trail

This 3 mile loop at the State Game Lodge is the perfect trail to explore for wildflower viewing and it overlooks some of the top sites in Custer State Park. The trail has multiple creek crossings and a steep ascent to the top of a rocky outcrop that gives you views of Black Elk Peak, Cathedral Spires and Mount Coolidge. “According to folklore, a Native American woman and her lover jumped to their deaths from the summit of this hike” which is how the trail earned its name. Enjoy beautiful scenery and a moderately challenging hike in the heart of Custer State Park.

Length: 3 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Full Hiking Guide

Sunday Gulch Trail

Sunday Gulch Trail is a 2.8-mile loop and many find it to be Custer State Park's prettiest. This trail starts our near Sylvan Lake, but it takes you through a rocky outcropping with a rather steep descent in the beginning of the hike (handrails to help you down the rocks). Once you reach the bottom, the trail offers creekside access and up-close views of the cascades behind the lake. Hike through what almost feels like three different beautiful worlds along the way! The trailhead is reached by following the Sylvan Lake Trail behind the dam to the top of Sunday Gulch.

Length: 2.8 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous

Full Hiking Guide
Lodge building at Custer State park Resort

Accommodations for Hikers

Walk out your lodge room or cabin door to some of the trails the region is known for. When you stay at Custer State Park Resort, the only question will be which trail to explore first.

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