Black Elk Peak
Southern Distance: 6.6m round trip | Climb: 1100ft | Surface: gravel, dirt, rock
Northern Distance: 7m round trip | Climb: 2200ft | Surface: gravel, dirt, rock
This is the most common trail used to get to Black Elk Summit, which is the highest point in the US east of the Rocky Mountains. The 3.5 mile trek, one way, is moderate in difficulty due to the the escalated elevation and rocky terrain. The scenery is beautiful with many look out points along the way, which offers an extraordinary view of the entire Black Hills and surrounding area. The trail can be muddy in a few spots and the final 3⁄4 of mile of trail is fine sand which can be slippery. The stairs close to the peak do get somewhat strenuous.
The hike starts at about 5,100 feet and gains about 2,200 feet in elevation over the five mile hike to the summit. This trail from the north is longer and more difficult with roughly twice the elevation gain as the southern approach. The trail is not heavily used and depending on personal preference, perhaps slightly more scenic. Casual hikers seeking to reach the summit typically use the trail from Sylvan Lake. Experienced hikers seeking an additional challenge or embracing a more remote hike may consider this approach.
- From Rapid City, take US-16 W, turn left on US-385 SE continue on to SD-87 S and turn left.
- Travel to Sylvan Lake Parking Area.
- Trail 9 begins just across the footbridge leading to the swimming beach, located at the Sylvan Lake Day Use Area.
- From Hill City, travel south on US-385.
- Make left turn onto SD-244.
- Turn right on 355.
- Turn left on 355.1B.
- Begin at the Willow Creek Horse Camp, off Highway 244.