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Summit Trail

  3.5 ( 4 ) Favorite


3.2 mile 5.1 kilometer loop


Ascent: 1,039' 317 m
Descent: -1,038' -316 m
High: 4,406' 1,343 m
Low: 3,385' 1,032 m


Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 41% (22°)


No Dogs
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A trail to the summit of a sacred mountain with amazing views and religious reflection.

ktboundary Thompson

Features Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Please stay on the trail and respect those participating in religious activities. Do not disturb or photograph prayer cloths and tobacco ties. A buffalo herd roams the base of the butte. Buffalo are dangerous, please do not approach. Possession or consumption of alcohol at Bear Butte State Park east of Highway 79 is prohibited. Bear Butte is a sacred site for many people and will be respected as such.


This is an exposed trail that is subject to high wind and scorching heat (or frigid cold). The trail is rocky, but the views are worth the effort.

The religiousness and sacredness of the site may be an experience, but if ceremonies are taking place, it would be prudent to hike another day to be respectful.

Need to Know

During your visit, you'll see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Please respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed.

The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies. Please be respectful of worshipers and their religious practices.


Start from the parking lot and head through pine trees and prairie up switchbacks. Go through several rock outcroppings before heading up towards the summit. This section passes through some scree and talus and continues to switchback up the mountain. The trail reaches the summit with a viewing platform and information about the surrounding view. Take a few minutes to look at the vast expanse of prairie, the northern Black Hills and the town of Sturgis.

Flora & Fauna

Wildlife includes turkey, deer, bison, and rattlesnakes. Binoculars are helpful in spotting bison on the plains as you head up the trail. There are many wildflowers, but also poison ivy, so keep your eyes open. Birds include Western Meadowlarks, Black-billed Magpies, Spotted Towhees, Mountain Bluebirds, and a variety of warblers.

History & Background

For history on this trail visit the Bear Butte State Park website, provided by South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks.

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Mar 20, 2019
Brady Schaner
Quick hike with a nice view 3mi — 1h 22m
Nov 6, 2018
Samantha Britton
Sep 3, 2017
Marvin Noll
May 12, 2017
Brett Shewey
Jun 25, 2016
Rachel Vecchitto

Trail Ratings

  3.5 from 4 votes


  3.5 from 4 votes
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in South Dakota


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