Hike the Sacred Steps of Bear Mountain

South Dakota Bear Butte Trail

Added by Michael Wigle

Bear Mountain offers up a quick, rewarding hike with 360º views near Mt. Rushmore and Deadwood. You'll also get a close up view of a Native American historic and cultural site.

Bear Mountain or Mathó Pahá as it's called by the Lakota peoples, is the leftover remnants of an ancient volcanic plug. The mountain weathered away, to leave the harder igneous formation, for which plains tribes have been coming to for sacred communication with their Creator for 10,000 years. This place is akin to Uluru in Australia in terms of sacredness. You can feel that the moment you see the mountain in the landscape. With that said, approach this area with the utmost respect for the land, and worshippers who have travelled far to be here.

From Sturgis, head 10 minutes north on route 79. It's $4 a person, or $6 a vehicle at the gate on the way in. You'll drive through a herd of wild Bison, unless they've moved up onto the mountain. Leave them be as well.

From the parking lot, it's a 3.5 mile loop to the summit over narrow switchbacks and ridge trains. It's loose volcanic rock, so watch your footing. You can run the trail up and back in 90 minutes if you want a great workout. In the morning, the mountain is covered in low clouds, making for an epic view at the top as they dissipate late morning. Remember to watch the noise that you're making so as to not disturb those in meditation.

Spend time at the top doing yoga or mediating. If you want to pray, cut a piece of yellow, blue, green, or red cloth and tie to a tree. Say a prayer, and do not disturb other cloths, as each is an important prayer. The colors represent the four quadrants of the Great Compass. This is the best place for meditation in the region, and a short trip from Deadwood and Mount Rushmore.

In Sturgis after the hike is the Knuckle Saloon. The burgers are hot, and go best with a Crow Peak Brewery beer!

Pack List

  • Hydration Pack
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Cloth for prayers
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Chillin, Fitness, Hiking, Photography, Running, Volunteering, Yoga

Skill Level:




Trail Type:



3.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1200 Feet



Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Picnic Area

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15 minutes ago

Bear Butte

The name is Bear Butte. Super awesome hike!

15 minutes ago

10 months ago

Thank You

I sincerely appreciate the historic and scientific information that you provide about this sacred place. This has moved to the top of my list for sites to visit in Paha Sapa (Lakota for "Black Hills.") And you are spot-on with Crow Peak Brewery! The Cream Ale is a can't miss!

10 months ago

Added by Michael Wigle

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