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Hiking South Dakota's Black Hills Country
by Bert & Jane Gildart (Falcon Guides)
A vigorous loop hike through a variety of lofty terrain so beautiful that one of the trails (Lost Cabin) has been designated a National Recreational Trail. For those interested in a challenging hike, this combination of four different trails provides just that. Because the distance is lengthy, some consideration should be given to camping in the Black Elk Wilderness, named for the famous Oglala medicine man who was present as a young teenager at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.Water is plentiful, though it must be purified, and primitive wilderness campsites are abundant. Before pitching your tent, however, check that you are not camped in a patch of poison ivy. Practice zero-impact ethics.
THe trail up Harney Peak was well travelled but was wide enough to allow two people to walk side by side or be able to pass slower hikers or when you meet a hiker in the opposite direction
Awesome hike...lots of nice scenery..highly reccommended
We started our hike from Sylvan Lake trail head. Although it was peak hiking season there were few people on the trail since the temperature had been over 100 degrees and there had been a fire in the Lost Cabin area two days before. Therefore access to Sylvan Lake and the hiking trails had been closed the two days prior to our hike. In fact we had to start our hike from the Needles Highway as the parking and camping area around the trailhead was closed to public traffic. Only firefighters had access and were camping there. Since it was so hot we did not start our hike to Harney Peak until late in the afternoon (4:00 p.m.).
As we commenced our hike we noted that helicoptors were dipping water out of Sylvan Lake to dump on the hot spots at the Lost Cabin fire area. We were told that 5 acres had burned.
I would say the trail to Harney Peak is of moderate challenge. It is wise to bring drinking water and wear sturdy shoes. There were people hiking with sandles, however, they admitted that they had not planned to hike to Harney peak. Several years ago I worked at Sylvan and we frequently hiked to Harney Peak. Once you are aclimated to the altitude the hike is a breeze but for us flat landers it seems more stenuous because the air is thinner that what we are used to. Harney Peak is the highest point east of the Rockies.
The trail is beautiful and peaceful. The people we met were very encouraging and friendly. One young gal on her way down said, "It is so beautiful. It is worth the hike." The old fire tower and reservoir truly are worth the hike. You have such a beautiful veiw of the Hills. My husband thought the hike to Harney Peak was the highlight of our vacation in the Black Hills. From start to finish (Sylvan to Harney Peak and back) our hike took less than 4 hours.
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