Harney Peak Trail

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

Distance7.3mi
Elevation Gain4,451ft
Trailhead Elevation6,162ft
Top7,090ft
Elevation Min/Max5262/7090ft
Elevation Start/End6162/6162ft

Harney Peak Trail

Harney Peak Trail is a hiking trail in Pennington County and Custer County, South Dakota. It is within Custer State Park, Black Elk Wilderness Area, and Black Hills National Forest. It is 7.3 miles long and begins at 6,162 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 14.7 miles with a total elevation gain of 4,451 feet. Near the trailhead there are a parking and restrooms. The Harney Peak Lookout observation tower can be seen along the trail. There are also parking and viewpoints along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Norbeck Trail, Willow Creek Trail and Lost Cabin Trail.

Harney Peak Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"A series of trails through wilderness and exceptional wildlife habitat. Hikers eventually reach Harney Peak. Willow Creek Loop Trail provides vistas of Harney Peak, a bird’s-eye view of the spires of Elkhorn Mountain, and a stroll through stands of some of the Black Hills’ largest ponderosa pines.

Starting from Willow Creek Horse Camp, one can either proceed southwest on Trails #2 and #8 or northeast on Trail #9. Along the way, short spur trails lead from the main trail. One short spur takes hikers to a small dam on Willow Creek. Depending on the season and the year,Willow Creek can be a full flow or a quiet seep."

Harney Peak Trail Reviews

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7/5/2018
This is a fairly challenging hike depending on what kind of shape you are in--but wow, the views are so fantastic at the top! It is well worth the climb. It took my friend and I about four hours, even though we took a few breaks for snack and shooting pictures of the beautiful views and wildlife. It was exciting to see mountain goats. I would recommend getting an early start and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. The hot sun can be a killer in the Black Hills during the summer months.
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7/10/2010
I'd call this a moderate trail but not terribly difficult. The steepness and stair cases at the end up to the fire lookout were probably the most intimidating for several people we saw along the way. I took my aunt (not in good shape) on this trip. She was determined to make the trip as part of her Bucket List. It was slow going but we made it. She said it was one of the best times of her life. We came back down a different path along the Cathedral Spires. That was an outstanding return trip and I'd highly recommend that route back. Just don't get lost or worried if you run in to the logging areas. Pay attention to the arrows on the trees to point you across the open areas back to the trail. I've done Harney Peak twice now, and the view over the Black Hills from the top is worth the trip. It's also worth bragging rights for being on the tallest point (in South Dakota none the less) between the Rockies and the Pyrenees in Europe!
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7/30/2009
We hiked the Harney Peak Trail combining the Norbeck Trail. Climbing up the Norbeck Trail with loaded backpacks takes quite an effort, but this is what we did on the first day. The next morning the climb to the top of Harney Peak was a short hike. Making camp and leaving the packs and gear off-trail near the intersection of Grizzly Bear Creek Trail and Norbeck was a smart decision. We were able to take in Harney Peak and Sylvan Lake all in a day. The views on Harney and Norbeck maybe the best in all of the Black Hills. One sad note, however, is that the pine beetle infestation has taken a severe toll on the Black Elk Wilderness area. It will probably take 10 years before these areas recover. If you are looking to do a weekend backpack trip in the Black Hills I suggest you use the Norbeck and Harney Peak trails to get the most out of this area.
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6/30/2009
A great hike for nearly everyone, young and old. The trail gently angles up to the peak, the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps. In the spring, you might cross a few trickles of water. American Indians sometimes leave prayer bundles along the trail, as the mountain is a holy site.
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5/1/2009
This loop trail is amazing! It is a nice slow grade all the way to the top of Harney peak. The return loop is as scenic as the way up. Plenty of camping and water along the way. We did the first 2/3 of the trail and then camped for the night. The write-up here says that it is 10.5 miles. Our GPSs logged about 15 miles and our legs felt more like 15 than 10. Overall, well worth the trip!
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8/9/2008
Great, tough hike for kids and adults. Good workout for me, tough for my 2 and 3 year olds. BUT we made it. Beautiful view. If you know where to look, you can see the BACK of Mt. Rushmore. Lots of traffic on this trail in the summer time. Great opportunity for cool down back at the bottom...Sylvan Lake.
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6/27/2007
Great Hike from Rushmore to Sylvan Lakes. I really enjoyed the solitude from Rushmore until Harney's Peak. Definitly recommend you hike from Rushmore and stay overnight.
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6/11/2007
A must for anyone hiking the Black Hills. One just can't skip hiking on top of the highest mountain of the black hills. This is a fairly easy day hike. Hey, even our 3 1/2 year old hiked most of it by himself. The hike ascents through the pine forest which gives now and then amazing views. Last you will climb up a series of metal stairs to the rock on which the now abandoned fire lookout tower resides. The view from the top is amazing and the hike is great.
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5/20/2007
My dog and I stopped in the Black Hills on our way from Florida to the North Cascades where I'm volunteering with the National Park Service. This was our first hike of the summer season and while it was tougher than it will be for us at the end of the summer, it was great fun. We ran into lots of other hikers and dogs, including some old guys like myself. Loved it!
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7/27/2006
As western high points go, Harney Peak does not present a difficult physical challenge. But the scenery is first rate. From the Sylvan Lake trail head I took trail 4 on the way up. The views of the spires, and needles are spectacular. Amongst the small group I hiked with was a geologist, who pointed out the very diverse geology of the Black Hills region. The expansive views from the summit, including the back side of Mt. Rushmore (no, there are not any presidential "moons") topped off the ascent. I descended on Trail 9, the Harney Peak Summit trail, a more direct approach, but less scenic. There is a good amount of intermitent shade on both trails, never the less, I would recommend an early start in the summer, as it gets pretty warm by the afternoon. Also, parking is at a premium in the afternoon, as people come to enjoy the picturesque Sylvan Lake. Parking was plentiful in the morning. I highly recommend this moderate hike.
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Trail Information

Black Hills National Forest
Nearby City
Black Elk Wilderness Area
Parks
Black Hills National Forest Visitor Center
Local Contacts
Trails Illustrated Topo Map No. 238; Black Hills National Forest Map; USGS Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain, and Custer quads.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Nov 2018