The 10 Best Hiking Trails in South Dakota!

From the Badlands, to the Great Plains, to the Black Hills, South Dakota is world-renowned for its scenic hiking trails. Is there a better treat than getting outside for some fresh air and exercise while taking in some of the most stunning sights in the nation? Check out the 10 best trails in the Mount Rushmore State—and don’t forget your water bottle!

1. Poet’s Table, Hermosa, SD

Poet’s Table is the Black Hills’ best hike, but you won’t find it in any guidebook. Some decades ago, a group of poets carried up a simple wooden closet, table, and chairs to a secluded spot in the hills, to serve as a quiet place where they could write and talk. It has since become the stuff of legend for locals. There are no official directions to getting to Poet’s Table. Part of the adventure is using the cryptic directions to try to locate the table. Once you get there, the view is worth it! To find Poet’s Table, start at the Little Devil’s Trailhead in Custer State Park. After walking for a few minutes, you will see a single tree leaning towards a beaten a path. Stay to the right of the highest peak, and once you reach the ridge, climb over the rocks. Poet’s Table will be on the other side.

2. Trail 9 to Black Elk Peak, Keystone, SD

Black Elk Peak is the highest summit in America east of the Rocky Mountains, so this hike is not for the out-of-shape. It is a sacred site for the Lakota Sioux tribe, known to them as Pahá Sápa. Trail 9 is the most popular and easiest route to the top, and is approximately six miles round trip. The trail cuts through a beautiful ponderosa pine tree forest. At the top of the peak is an old fire lookout station, built in 1939. Catch your breath and explore the old lookout before heading back down. The view is out of this world!

3. Devil’s Bathtub, Spearfish, SD

Devil’s Bathtub is the crown jewel of Spearfish Canyon. The hidden waterfall and swimming area make it a perfect hike to cool off on a hot summer day! The one mile round-trip hike is wet and slippery, so be cautious. The path is not marked, but it is well-worn and easy to spot while driving down Cleopatra Road on Spearfish Scenic Byway. Make sure to add this to your Black Hills bucket list!

4. Hippie Hole, Keystone, SD

Hippie Hole is a local favorite and summer hotspot. The natural swimming hole and waterfall is surrounded up tall rock cliffs and pine tree forests. It is only a short hike down Battle Creek from the parking area on South Rockerville Road. Hikers looking for a challenge can take the more strenuous hike off Highway 40. Make sure to be careful when diving off the rocks and don’t swim alone. Don’t forget sunscreen!

5. Sunday Gulch Trail, Custer, SD

This four-mile hike is fairly difficult, but rewarding as the bottom of the hike goes along a bubbling creek with awe-inspiring rock formations. At some points, hikers must climb over small boulders and some steep steps. The soaring, moss-covered rock walls along the trail are a can’t-miss. This trail starts by Sylvan Lake, like the Black Elk Peak Trail, but is much quieter. Don’t overlook this little-known gem!

6. Crow Peak, Spearfish, SD

Wildflowers, bird watching, and amazing views are what make this trail a favorite in the Black Hills National Forest. Crow Peak got its name from a battle between the Sioux and Crow, in which the Sioux were victorious. The triumphant Sioux named it Paha Karitukateyapi, meaning “the hill where the Crows were killed.” The trail is on Higgins Gulch Road, off of Hillsview Road. Crow Peak Trail isn’t immediately visible, but head through the gate and you’ll find it. It is a little over six miles and moderately strenuous. According to the trail system map, it has a “difficult” ranking. Once at the top, Bear Butte, Spearfish Mountain, and Terry Peak can be seen. Be on the lookout for Pasque, the state flower, which is known to bloom along the trail in the spring.

7. Notch Trail, Badlands National Park, SD

This 1.5-mile trail heads through a canyon to an overlook with fantastic views of the Great Plains. The trek traces the edge of a steep cliff. Make sure to look at all the bizarre rock formations and unique geography that the Badlands has to offer. This is a short hike, but can be difficult due to the angled wooden ladder along the trail. Notch Trail is truly the trip of a lifetime! 

8. Cathedral Spires Trail, Custer, SD

As this trek climbs, the breathtaking granite spires and the town of Custer appear. It is a short trail at 1.5 miles one way, but is considered strenuous by the park. Hikers must scramble up boulders and through towering spires. Wild raspberries and wildflowers sprout along the trail, adding to the beauty of the rock formations. To find the trailhead, go down Needles Highway in Custer State Park. Keep an eye out for mountain goats, as some hikers have reported seeing them bouncing around on the trail!

9. Crazy Horse, Custer, SD

The bi-annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch is a 10K to the top of Crazy Horse Memorial. Once completed, the mountain monument will be the world’s largest mountain carving—even larger than Mount Rushmore. This hike is only available in October and June, so you definitely won’t want to miss the opportunity. The Crazy Horse Volksmarch is the most popular organized hike in America, with 15,000 hikers in a record year. It is fairly difficult due to the rugged paths through the forest and steep upward trek. At the end of the hike is the 87-foot face of Crazy Horse, up-close and in-detail. It is an experience that every South Dakota enthusiast needs to experience. It will leave you breathless—in more ways than one!

10. Little Devils Tower, Custer, SD

This trail in Custer State Park provides another view of the Cathedral Spires rock formations. This three-mile round-trip hike climbs 600 feet and is strenuous due to the rocky, steep trail. The trailhead can be found near Sylvan Lake. The sweeping, panoramic view from the top makes this one of the best trails in the Black Hills.

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Find Hiking Trails Near You
25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD
The rugged beauty of the Badlands draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world's richest fossil ... Read More
272 Westshore Drive, McCook Lake, SD
Spanning 1,500 acres along the Missouri River, this area was donated to the people of South Dakota in 1984 by Mary and Maud Adams, granddaughters o... Read More
13000 S Dakota 244, Keystone, SD
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is visited by nearly three million people each year that come to marvel at the majestic beauty of the Black Hills ... Read More
F D R 277, Custer, SD
Immerse yourself within the third longest cave in the world. With over 168 miles of mapped and surveyed passages, this underground wilderness appea... Read More
21176 Flood Club Road, Lake Preston, SD
Originally called Dry Woods Lake by American Indians, the lake was renamed for Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior under President James Buch... Read More
13672 Hartford Beach Road, Corona, SD
Big Stone Lake provides the setting for this popular camping and picnic area nestled in the shade of a native wooded forest.Runoff from melting gla... Read More
20439 Marina Loop Road, Fort Pierre, SD
The park's three campgrounds give visitors a variety of recreational opportunities, from boating to hiking to disc golf. The Corps of Engineers beg... Read More
12980 446th Ave, Grenville, SD
Noted for its cool, spring-fed waters, Pickerel Lake is one of the deepest natural lakes in the state. The 955-acre lake bears an American Indian n... Read More
38180 297th Street, Lake Andes, SD
Located on the shores of the Missouri River just above Fort Randall Dam, North Point Recreation Area provides a spectacular river view. Lewis and C... Read More
35250 191st Street, Miller, SD
Lake Louise was made in 1932, when the south fork of Wolf Creek was dammed. Water depth in this 164-acre impoundment averages nine feet, with a max... Read More
402 Park Avenue, Mina, SD
Nestled along the wooded shores of Mina Lake, Mina Recreation Area is a water-lover's haven with plenty of room for boating, fishing and swimming. ... Read More
Hiddenwood Rd, Selby, SD
Heavy rains washed out the bridge and dam on the road to the park, which is the only way to access the area. The park is closed indefinitely as off... Read More
1301 Farm Island Road, Pierre, SD
Located east of Pierre, Farm Island attracts all types of visitors - campers, swimmers, hikers, anglers, bird watchers and bicyclists. With easy ac... Read More
31323 Toe Road, Yankton, SD
With its 146 campsites and ten camping cabins, Chief White Crane is a great place for groups to gather to spend the weekend. Combined with its own ... Read More
31144 Toe Road, Yankton, SD
Pierson Ranch opened in 1959 and is the oldest campground in the area. It was the first campground to be constructed after Gavins Point Dam was com... Read More
This popular trail begins with a steep ascent through a mature ponderosa pine forest, with views of the State Game Lodge and surrounding area. The ... Read More
Crow Peak is a dominant landmark because of its geological makeup. Billions of years ago, this area was covered by an ocean. Layers of sediment wer... Read More
The Eagle Cliff Trails were developed by local skiing enthusiasts in the mid 1980's. This trail system became popular among other recreationists be... Read More
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