• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Swimming Hole

Distance: 7 miles roundtrip (out and back). Elevation gain: 5,166 ft. Duration: 4-5 hours. Highest point in South Dakota. Incredible stone lookout. Great views of the black hills.

The Harney Peak Trailhead #9 is located in the northwest corner of the parking lot just beyond Sylvan Lake. From there, the hike is very straight forward – the beginning of the trail is very moderate, being slightly flat with a few ups and downs along the way.

Once you cross into the Black Elk Wilderness (don't forget to fill out the permit before moving forward), the trail descends a little more to the valley floor. On the other side of the valley, the hike intensifies for the last mile or so, heading uphill. The last quarter of a mile is mostly stairs. Once you get to the top, however, you will forget all about the climb, as you are struck by the beautiful views.

At the top of Harney Peak, if you are so inclined, you can hike quite far up on the climbing rocks.

Be sure to bring layers and rain gear with you in the summer months. The weather will change almost at the drop of a hat.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Rain gear or warm layer
  • Hiking boots
  • Camera
  • Food
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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

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Reviews

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We loved this trek. A bit crowded but for good reason. Take trail #9 up and trail #4 back down. Trail #4 is a bit longer and will take you through some incredible spires. Enjoy!

8 months ago
8 months ago

This was surprisingly easy and steady for being the tallest peak in SD/ east of the Rockies. The trail gained elevation very subtly and provided fantastic views almost the entire way. Once at the top, we were able to see for miles and miles. Lots of area to get away from hiking groups and sit down for a beer. We even had service up top and facetimed my mom to show her the view! Loved it! It was the top of my list and it did not disappoint!

9 months ago
9 months ago

The Hike to Black Elk Peak is one of the most intense hikes in the Black Hills. Just when you think you're finished you get to climb the steepest steps in the state (I swear). Do not give up and turn around because the view from the top is absolutely phenomenal and breathtaking. Remember to take your time and bring a ton of water to ensure you stay cool and hydrated. This is an amazing hike but can be strenuous even for people who hike on a regular basis!

10 months ago
10 months ago

I've been several times, taking new friends each time. While some of my friends are less "outdoorsy" than other, they all enjoy the hike and want to go back up with me the next time I go! It is a very popular area for locals as well as out-of-towners, so get their early and get going before everyone else is there :)

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I recommend arriving early during peak season as parking can be hard to come by. Trails are well marked and maintained, it's the hike you must do in the black hills!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

We hiked this in the early spring when hardly any one else was on the path. It was a great time to do it and an amazing experience. I recommend taking the longer trail by the cathedral spires and little devil tower to add to the scenery. The peak gives a great 360 view and has awesome history behind the tower.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

It isn't an easy hike, but my 8yr old managed it. The stairs at the end were pretty tall which made them more difficult. The pay off of the CCC castle with a look out tower at the top was more than worth it!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Did you know that Harney Peak is the tallest peak in the continental United States east of the Rocky Mountains? Happy trails!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

I just moved to Rapid City, SD and did this hike over the weekend. The trail is well marked and maintained. It includes some cool spires and rock formations along the way. In addition to the awesome 360 degree view you get from Harney Peak, you also get a few good overlooks along the way. Important things to add to the original trip review. When parking at Sylvan Lake you have to pay a $15.00 day use pass. Also there's an amazing look out tower at the top of Harney Peak. It's well worth the the hike.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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