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Sylvan Lake to Harney Peak Trail Professional Review and Guide
"A moderately difficult trail to Harney Peak with spectacular and varied scenery along the way."
--Bert & Jane Gildart, Hiking South Dakota's Black Hills Country (Falcon Guides).
The Sylvan Lake Trail (#9) is about four miles long and took us about 2 hours to get to the top. The trail is well used, well marked, and not very difficult. The views from the summit are awesome. We trekked Little Devil's Tower trail (#4) back down. The views on this trail were better than those on #9, but the grade is steeper. If you're looking for an easier route up to HP, take #9.
This was a beautiful moderately difficult hike rewarded with fabulous views at the top, however, we had plenty of company. We took the Little Devil's trail down which led us through dramatic spires and needles, was slightly longer, but much less crowded.
We hiked this trail early on Memorial Day and were one of the first vehicles in the lot at Sylvan Lake ($10.00) park entry fee required. Sylvan Lake, the #9 trail is well marked and not that difficult. The views from the summit are some of the best the Black Hills have to offer and is a must for visitors. Upon our return to the lot it was full with not a space in sight. The summit was quit windy and much cooler than the lower elevations but pack a lunch as there is ample areas to escape the wind and enjoy the views.
The scenery within the Harney range is hard to beat and the "summit" offers spectacular views of nearly the entire black hills and surrounding plains. There are a number of trails from which to climb the mountain but this seems to be among the busiest. Often in the Summer it is quite difficult to find a parking space at sylvan lake so consider parking at Little Devils Tower and cutting over to the sylvan trail from there. The trail is usually in good condition and is quite dry for the most part. It is best to pack in all your own water as filtering opportunities are limited along the climb. I always recommend having a wind breaker along as the Harney range is often quite a bit colder than the lower elevations and rain/hail storms have a way of sneaking up on the mountian. Although the trail can be rather grueling it is short enough to pace yourself and enjoy the scenery without overdueing it. Should you choose to bring along mans best friend there is an excellent watering hole to cool off in at the summit.
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