Lovers' Leap Trail

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Distance3.0mi
Elevation Gain1,649ft
Trailhead Elevation4,271ft
Top4,704ft
Elevation Min/Max4247/4704ft
Elevation Start/End4271/4271ft

Lovers' Leap Trail

Lovers' Leap Trail is a hiking and biking trail in Custer County, South Dakota. It is within Custer State Park. It is three miles long and begins at 4,271 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,649 feet.

Lovers' Leap Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"A 2- to 3-hour loop trail passing through pine and oak forest, offering great views at the summit. The Grace Coolidge Walk-in Fishing Area trail is actually an old, overgrown logging
road. It is an easy and refreshing hike, and the numerous crossings over the narrow, sometimes deep, creek add to the fun. Six low-head dams exist along the way, some with deep, dark pools lying beneath granite rock formations.

Walking this trail is a fun outing for the entire family. In 1927 President Calvin Coolidge and his family maintained a summer White House nearby; as a result, many features in the area bear the Coolidge name. In summer the trail is alive with the vibrant colors of wildflowers; in fall the bur oak and birch tree leaves add a startling gold that contrasts with the green-black of the ponderosa pine."

"A loop hike that’s a great family outing, with some ups and downs, a few stream crossings, and many wonderful views. With lots of potential for a fun family outing, this hike combines gentle ups and downs after an initial steep ascent to a ridge. Numerous stream crossings exist here, though none is too difficult.

Poison ivy can be abundant along the streams. According to legend, Lovers’ Leap derives its name from a Native American couple who elected to end their lives by plummeting from the lofty outcropping of rocks on a 200-foot ridge. Just why the couple leaped to their deaths is not certain. Today a lone ponderosa pine stands among the conglomerate rocks overlooking the sheer drop of several hundred feet. Not surprisingly, the ridge commands spectacular views of the Black Hills."

Lovers' Leap Trail Reviews

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7/16/2018
Absolutely gorgeous hike, only a few mildly strenuous sections. Hiking clockwise around the loop, the first segment is an ascent to the ridgeline above the State Game Lodge. The trail follows the ridge through the forest to Lover's Leap. The views at the top are great after a small scramble. You can see Needles, Black Elk Peak (Harney Peak), and other Black Hills peaks. There are several river crossings with bridges. Walking by the creek is refreshing after the uphill climbs. Look out for the abundance of poison ivy.
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6/25/2011
This was one of our favorite trails. Very picturesque area. The trail gradually winds its way up nearly 500 ft mostly under the canopy of pine. Closer to the top/ridgeline, there's such a thick wonderful smell of pine you can almost taste it. Once the ridgeline is achieved you can start appreciating the surrounding hills and valley below. You're in for a real treat once you get to the actual Lover's Leap area. It's well worth the climb. I have a lung condition that markedly decreases my endurance but was still able to make it to the top with a few extra stops along the way. The trail is well marked and relatively easy. Going down on the Western side was steep in spots but generally easy to hike. The trail was quiet with few sounds of cars/RV's below along the road. Once the trail officially ends, you still have about a 1/4-1/2 mile hike along the road back to the Norbeck Visitors Center where the parking is. By the way, the Visitors Center there has plenty of parking, a very helpful and knowledgeable staff plus plenty of information as well as a good 3D representation of the park. Worth the time to enter it and spend a few minutes. Do this trail.
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9/23/2007
This is a great hike - very scenic with a good chance to see bison. The beginning is mostly uphill - but not too strenuous. The remainder is a nice rolling hike. My partner and I did it in an hour and a half - much shorter than the estimated but we're pretty seasoned hikers.
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9/26/2005
This is a neat little trail, ony about 4 miles so it would be an easy one for children. The look out at Lovers Leap offers a great view of Custer State Park. We had a beautiful fall day and the tree colors were in full bloom. Several creek crossings but none are difficult. The trail offers a real diversity in settings.
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8/13/2003
One short trail about 2.5 hrs. It was beautiful!. First you climb to the top of the ridge, then follow it along until you reach the actual site of "Lovers Leap". The view was breath taking! What a long way STRAIGHT DOWN.... After leaving Lovers Leap you follow the ridge a short while further then decend down to a valley with a stream and all kinds of vegitation and about 11 stream crossings. This is just a all around wonderful trail for all.
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12/28/2000
I reside 3 miles from Custer state park but I have only enjoyed this hike once. The bulk of the elevation gain is done in the 1st 1/2 mile and the trail evens out along a ridge afterwards. There are a number of beautiful views from the ridge and the valley below has a nice creek which you hike along during the end of the loop. This trail is right next to a popular campground in Custer so it is a little busy during the Summer. By the way, the trail is called Lover's leap as a Native American couple allegedly jumped off the high point of the ridge to their deaths, together.
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Trail Information

Custer State Park
Nearby City
Custer State Park
Parks
Custer State Park
Local Contacts
Trails Illustrated Topo Map No. 238
Local Maps