Hiking Harney Peak: One of the Most Popular Black Hills Hiking Destinations

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Every season we have a number of guests tell us about their adventures in the Black Hills.  One of the most common comments we hear is, “Well, we just had to hike Harney Peak!”  Harney Peak is one of the most popular Black Hills hiking trails, so we thought we’d give you some information about Harney Peak that you might not find on the trail.


  • At 7,242 feet, Harney Peak is the tallest point east of the Rocky Mountains. Or is it?  Interestingly enough, that claim is up for debate.  Guadelupe Peak in Texas stands at 8,749 feet, which easily beats out Harney Peak’s height.  The discrepancy comes from where Guadelupe Peak is located. 
However, Guadelupe Peak is located in the far western part of Texas.  Guadelupe Peak could easily be describe as being part of the Rockies, but it could also be described as being slightly east of the Rockies.  For our money, Texas can claim Guadelupe Peak as being part of the Rocky Mountains. 
  • Harney Peak’s granite highpoint is also sacred ground to Native Americans, especially the Sioux Lakota. It was actually atop this peak – which towered over the Lakota Nation – that a young Black Elk experienced a vision. Black Elk recounted his vision many years later after he became a respected elder and medicine man.
  • The tower on top of Harney Peak is actually a fire lookout tower. It’s long since been abandoned but is still open to the public.  The fire lookout tower was built in the mid-1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps who manually hauled the native stone three miles to the summit!
  • General George Armstrong Custer once attempted to ride is hose to the summit. He almost made it to the top too.
  • Mules (or Burrows as they’re commonly referred as in South Dakota) were once used to transport people and supplies to the summit.
  • Gutzon Borglum considered carving Mount Rushmore at Harney Peak. As the story goes, once he got to the top of Harney Peak, he spotted a mountain in the distance and decided it was perfect for Mount Rushmore.
  • There are many Black Hills hiking trails in the Black Elk Wilderness that provide access to Harney Peak, but the most popular is Trail #9.
  • Black Hills hiking Trail #9 starts at the upper parking lot of Sylvan Lake, and there’s an elevation gain of 1,100 feet from Sylvan Lake to the summit of Harney Peak.
  • While Trail #9 doesn’t require any technical climbing skills the sheer granite peaks can drop approximately 80 feet at the peak, so exercise caution.
  • Black Hills hiking Trail #4 is the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead, but it also connects to Trail #9, which leads to Harney Peak.
  • If you’re feeling especially adventurous, the Northern Approach Harney Peak Trail might just be for you. The norther approach trail begins at Willow Creek Horse Camp, which is located right off of Highway 244.  The elevation gain for this trail is twice as much as Trail #9 at about a gain of 2,200 feet from the beginning of the hike to the summit.  *Used by experienced hikers.
"I saw myself on the central mountain of the world, the highest place, and I had a vision because I was seeing in the sacred manner of the world." – Black Elk on Harney Peak
There are so many beautiful Black Hills hiking trails to choose from, but Harney Peak’s unique history and gorgeous, expansive views make it a true treasure.  If you’re in the mood for more Black Hills hiking trails or other great family attractions to visit during your stay, be sure to ask the staff about their recommendations.  The friendly staff at the Powder House Lodge is very knowledgeable with the local attractions and is always more than happy to help you and your family find your way to the best Black Hills attractions.
Being located close to all of popular Black Hills hiking trails and attractions, the Powder House Lodge is the perfect place to book your Black Hills vacation. Call us today at 1-800-321-0692 or check availability on our website to book your stay.  Our restaurant is open daily, and we serve breakfast (7:00 am – 11:00 am), lunch (11:00 am – 4:00 pm), and dinner (4:00 pm – 9:00 pm).  We feature prime rib nightly (while it lasts); an extensive selection of pastas, seafood and wild game; as well as a gluten sensitive menu.  See you soon!

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