Sunday, June 12, 2011

Harney Peak

Harney Peak is a must do hike for everyone, even if you don't consider yourself a hiker. The most popular trail head begins at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park (Trail 9) and slowly climbs up to the 7242 foot peak where you'll find an old, abandoned fire lookout tower with a view of multiple states, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. Harney Peak is also the tallest peak east of the Rocky Mountains.

Beginning at the east side of Sylvan Lake, trail 9 slowly climbs through the surrounding pine forest. About a mile in you'll enter the Black Elk Wilderness where there is a registration station (don't worry, it's free) to get a pass for the wilderness area. Although the hike is to the top of a peak, there are ups and downs, creek crossings, and multiple trail intersections along with amazing views of the Black Hills and surrounding areas. Once at the top, there is the old fire tower and a dam with pump station plus plenty of granite to wander around on taking in the views and chasing the chipmunks and mountain goats.

The trail is 3 miles, 6 miles round trip, and can take up to five hours depending on your physical condition. It is considered to be moderately strenuous because of the grade and all of the rock outcrops and tree roots. The only fee to do this hike is for Custer State Park. Either a seven day pass or a one year pass are available. Unfortunately, camping isn't allowed at the summit…

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