Go to www.Blackhillstripplanner.com for hiking Harney Peak details, and more pictures!

Hiking Harney Peak

Hiking Harney Peak is challenging,
and rewarding!

The Harney Peak Hike is the most popular hike in South Dakota!

Hands down, hiking Harney peak is on most locals, and travelers, to-do list in the summer.

Harney Peak is probably the most known, and most traveled hike in all of South Dakota!

Harney Peak is an amazing feat of architecture, in my opinion.

Built in 1938 as a animal and fire lookout tower, it is built at 7,242 FT ABOVE sea level!

Go to www.BlackHillsTripPlanner.com for hiking Harney Peak details, and more pictures!

This hike is "rated" as moderate to strenuous, but it gets real strenuous at times!

This is the picture of the map at the beginning of the trail head. It shows you in the pink area that you are "here" (in case you are already lost) and shows the different trails that you can take.

Grab a photo of this with your phone, then zoom in and out later!

The trail starts at the Sylvan Lake parking lot.

Here's your sign!

Yep, it is a warning sign.

Rugged terrain ahead.

Pay attention to the trails marks, bring PLENTY of water.

6 miles round trip, allow 4-5 hours to hike this.

Oh ya, don't forget to be wary of fast in coming thunderstorms. Real common in the Black Hills, especially violent in the Custer State Park area.

Doesn't he look happy and excited?

I should have taken an "after" picture...bahahaha!

You will get the picture with the before and after shot I got of the dog.

They would have looked similar. =)

This really is a busy trail.

Nice to know that there are so many other fellow travelers on the trail with you.

Like in case of an emergency.

Like in case I faint from exhaustion...

See how nice and level and wide and pretty the trail is here? It lulls you into a false sense of an easy going all the way..

We had already climbed about half way there when we took this picture.

See that little teenie tiny bump the arrow is pointing to, WAY off in the distance?

That's Harney Peak!

You will climb up 1,100 Ft in elevation over a course of 3 miles to get there. Uff da!

Ok, this is where the trail will start to get rockier and more strenuous.

This is when you enter into the Black Elk Wilderness area.

They require you and your party to register as you go past this point.

Must be a search and rescue thing? You keep the carbon in your backpack. Good for identifying dead bodies.

I polled hikers randomly as we ran into them.

I wanted to know if they were in better shape then me. Most of them apparently were. Except for the Grandparents I polled. She gave the hike a 8 or 9 (on my 1-5 scale) her husband thought it should be closer to a 6.

Everybody else said between a 3 1/2 and a 4.

Of course they were coming down, as we were going up. Is it ok to slap people if your oxygen levels are depleted? Jk. I never slapped anybody. I was to tired.

These guys rode their horses up. Cheaters.

You can go to the lookout tower, then on your way back you can veer off and go to our very favorite high place...Little Devils Tower.

This split will also take you over to Palmer Gulch Koa area.

The last mile or so is really steep. This picture gives you a little idea of what to expect as you get closer to the tower.

Note the rock "steps".

These are more modern then what was there at one time. These steps are metal.

Note the rock walls.

It makes my head spin a bit to think those awesome Civilian Conservation Corps. not only made this same trek numerous times, they did it carrying material to build this fabulous tower.

They must have had quads like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Isn't this amazing?

The Tower was named after General Harney.

It was built in 1938 as a wildlife observation area, and a fire lookout.

In 1982 the lookout Tower, dam and pumphouse were all placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Look at this spiral staircase!

In between the trees there is where you will find the plaque, pictured next.

There is a person buried up here. Most folks do not even know that!

Above is the grave marker of Valentine McGillycuddy.

He was an early pioneer to the area, and a surveyor by trade. He was the first known person to climb Harney Peak.

He was a surgeon also, and treated Crazy Horse at his death. He was known as a friend to the Indians.

He was a prominent business man in Rapid City as well.

His ashes are entombed behind the plaque.

The plaques reads

Valentine McGillycuddy

Wasitu Wacan (Holy White Man in Lakota) 


Check out that view!!

Harney Peak is the highest point in the U.S. East of the Rocky Mountains. It is also the highest point West of the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe!

This shot is of the backside of the Lookout Tower.

The living quarters were at the bottom.

These guys had it made! Imagine waking up to these views every morning?

They also had running water, electricity, central heat and a flush toilet.

All of this.

On top of a solid granite rock.

This is the old pump house.

You can see water behind it from accumulated rainfall.

There is a dam that was built up there to hold the water in for the guys that lived there.

The last year the Tower was lived in was 1967.

This is a HUGE Mountain Top, and you are free to roam around and explore all you like.

We found a grassy little area and sat down to have lunch.

I will never cease to be amazed at trees growing straight out of solid rock.

If only my tomatoes were that tenacious!



Our dog is actually SITTING in a little stream of water along the path.

Our dog does NOT like water.

He actually laid down in it, then promptly got back up. I wasn't quick enough to grab that shot.

We all wanted to get in with him!


Overall we give this hike a rating of 4 (5 being the hardest, and based off the Little Devils Tower hike).

Remember your Grandparents telling stories of how they walked to school 4 miles each way, BOTH ways uphill?

Well, that's our take on Harney Peak.

It feels a little like that. Uphill. Both ways.

There are a few flat spots as you are going up, a few places where the trail goes downhill too. You are to grateful at the time to realize that when you are going "down" as you are going "up" that when you come back...well...that means you will have to go uphill. Again.

We left from Sylvan Lake Campground, which made this an 8 mile round trip for us.

Take a sack lunch with you. You will enjoy catching your breath in one of the most beautiful picnicking spots in the world!

We were up SO HIGH that we were afforded the viewing of helicopters BELOW us! We also got to see birds soaring high, and we were ABOVE them too. Awesome!

It is a steady long climb uphill (both ways) and it took us 3 hours to go the 4 miles from camp.

According to the GPS we walked for an hour and a 1/2 and stopped for an hour and
a 1/2.

But I was taking pictures for you. You're welcome.

It only took us an hour to get down.

By the time we got back to camp our feet were sore, all our 2 liter camel backs were empty, we were sunburned-and swearing we wouldn't make this hike again.

After a really great night's sleep, we were up and ready to do it again though.

But I think we will wait till next year. =)

Top of Harney PeakHiking Spearfish CanyonTop 5 Camping Spots


Hi, I am Jo. Welcome!
I have lived and played in the Black Hills all my life. I grew up camping, fishing, hiking, kickin it up at the Motorcycle Rallies and touring our area attractions. I want to show you the locals Black Hills, our secret  places to play, visit and eat! Please stay and browse around, and come back often too, I am always adding new reviews. Thanks for stopping by.

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