Sunday Gulch Trail

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

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4 Reviews
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Sunday Gulch Trail is a hiking trail in Custer County, South Dakota. It is within Custer State Park and Black Hills National Forest. It is 2.9 miles long and begins at 6,157 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.0 miles with a total elevation gain of 2,181 feet.
Distance: mi Elevation: ft
Sunday Gulch Trail is a hiking trail in Custer County, South Dakota. It is within Custer State Park and Black Hills National Forest. It is 2.9 miles long and begins at 6,157 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.0 miles with a total elevation gain of 2,181 feet.
Activity Type: Hiking, Trail Running, Walking
Nearby City: Black Hills National Forest
Distance: 2.9
Elevation Gain: 2,181 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 6,157 feet
Top Elevation: 6,323 feet
Parks: Custer State Park
Elevation Min/Max: 5590/6323 ft
Elevation Start/End: 6157/6157 ft

Sunday Gulch Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"An interpretive trail that loops behind Sylvan Lake and offers some of the best overviews of the park's exquisite diversity."

"A unique trail, one of beauty; a National Recreation Trail. The Sunday Gulch Trail is considered so extraordinary in the spectrum of plants, trees, mosses, and scenery that, in 1971, it was designated a National Recreation Trail. As you begin the descent, huge granite walls tower on each side of the trail, which parallels the creek as it drops into the ravine. Various rock layers and formations exist here. Tiny waterfalls and rock grottos surrounded by ponderosa pine, Black Hills spruce, paper birch, and aspen provide numerous photo opportunities.

Old man’s beard, a gray-green lichen, hangs from the trees, adding to the mysterious aura of the gulch. Many of the rocks are covered with mosses and lichen. Once this gulch was filled with a stream, but in the 1890s Theodor Reder dammed the mouth of the gulch and created Sylvan Lake. Today the stream spills over the dam, and at least one deep pool provides a home to brown trout. As the trail ascends from the gulch, beautiful panoramas of the Needles formations slide into view."

Sunday Gulch Trail Reviews

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7/14/2009
This is a beautiful trail. We did it with a 4 year old (sometimes hiking and sometimes riding our shoulders) and 7 and 9 year old. We didn't think it was as challenging as some guides make it sound. At no time did we think that we'd picked too tough a trail for our family. You can hike this trail in a clockwise or counterclockwise loop. I'd recommend the latter. From the General Store to the west of Sylvan Lake, follow the lakeside trail on the west side of the lake to the dam. (if you want to go clockwise, look for a road going west from the lake trail about 75 yds south of the dam). From the dam, you descend several hundred vertical feet in a very short distance. The Park Service has installed steel hand rails in this area, for which you'll be thankful. We hiked this in the middle of the day in the middle of July, but it was cool and shady almost every step. There are many beautiful plants to see. The creek that discharges from the Sylvan Lake Dam is within site of the trail for about the first 1/3 or 1/2 of the hike it seems. You're roughly 1/2 way when you bottom out and go under a power line. Assuming you go counterclockwise, you'll be about 2/3 done when you hear the car horns honking as the go through the one-lane tunnel on Hwy 87 at roughly 43°50'50.05"N 103°34'41.70"W. The last 1/3 (if counterclockwise) of the trail has you go to a point a good 100' higher than the trail starting point by Sylvan Lake. Overall, I really enjoyed the Sunday Gulch Trail and highly recommend it.
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6/1/2004
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7/22/2003
This is my 10 year old daughter's favorite trail in the Black Hills.She loves the waterfalls, fern beds, big rock cliffs,etc. It took about 3 hours, but we were in no hurry. The ice cream at the end at Sylvan Lake really hit the spot.
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5/29/2001
We hiked Sunday Gulch on an overcast, rainy day which certainly increased the thrill. The hike begins at the trail head on the west side of Sylvan Lake. The trail is well marked and begins with numerous decents over boulders, large chucks of ice and several stream crossings. The rain and ice made it very slippery but increased the fun as you had to pay attention to your footing. Hand rails are provided but are in need of repair. Once your decent you wind around in a forrested area with excellent views of the Harney Peak/Sylvan Lake region.
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Sunday Gulch Trail Photos

Activity Feed

Jun 2018