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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Harney Peak

Harney Peak has been on my "to do" list for quite a while. I finally made it up to South Dakota to hike to the top. It was a fantastic hike. We did a loop hike from the Sylvan Lake trailhead to Harney Peak, then back via the Little Devils Tower trail past the Cathedral Spires. Round trip doing the loop is about 6 1/2 miles.

Harney Peak is the highest point of the Black Hills and the state high point of South Dakota. It is also the highest point between the Rocky Mountains of North America and the Pyrenees of Europe.

The trail is well defined, and winds its way through forests of pine, aspen, and birch. It also skirts the base of several granite pillars.

The views along the way are pretty impressive and left me wanting to travel off the trail to see up close some of the spires.

About half way to the peak, the trail enters the Black Elk Wilderness. Government regulations require each group to get a free access pass at the wilderness boundary. We filled out our pass (bringing your own pen or pencil may be a good idea), and proceeded onward.

Right at the end, you have several sets of staircases to climb.

Then you turn a corner and see the fire tower that was built on top of the peak.
The views are amazing, and the historic fire tower is pretty cool too. There are several rooms inside, and you can pass through the tower and decend on the far side to see an old water reservoir and pumphouse that was used when the tower was manned.
We hopped across the granite to explore several of the sub-peaks to the west of the firetower. After a snack break, we headed back to our car.

Nearest City: Hill City, SD
GPS Coordinates: N 43° 51.965 W 103° 31.900
Time Needed: half a day
Difficulty: Moderate
Kid Friendly: Long hike, steep dropoffs.
Additional Info: Plan on at least 6 miles round trip if starting and leaving from the Little Devils Tower trailhead. Otherwise, plan on further distances. The most common trailheads are from within Custer State Park ($6/person or $15/vehicle). If you don't have cash, stop at the Sylvan Lake Lodge and they can run a credit card for you.

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