Hiking Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak (formally Harney Peak) is a granite mountain that is 7,242′ high located in the Black Hills in South Dakota. This is the highest point east of the Rockies. The trail is an incredible hike for those who like a bit of adventure and enjoy something more than a flat simple trail. This trail is rated as “moderate” and though it has some challenges, I found it not too difficult my first time which was also four months post hip surgery.
This is a great hike that gains just over 1,500′ in elevation. At the top of Black Elk Peak, there is a historic fire tower that is fun to check out or stop for a lunchbreak. This is a fairly popular place to stop. The breathtaking views are worth stopping here just to soak them all in. The views are truly natural beauty at it’s finest. From the tower, you can look off and see “Little Devils Tower” in the distance. We decided to hike over there before heading back to the truck. It was more than worth it.
How long to plan
Depending on how many times you stop to take pictures, snack brakes or to chat with others, I would recommend at least 4-5 hours. If you are a slower hiker or have little kids, I would plan on up to 7 hours depending on their ability. If you plan to hike Black Elk Peak during holidays or prime weather days, you will run into traffic both by hikers and cars searching for parking spots. Just something to keep in mind.
What to bring
Water. I feel this goes without saying but after spending years hiking and seeing many unprepared hikers out there, I am saying it anyways. Just as with any hike, if you are hiking Black Elk Peak, bring plenty of water and more than you think you’ll need. Also bring snacks, a first aid kit, multiple layers to put on/take off, a hat, bug spray/sunscreen (to put on prior to heading out) and any emergency gear you feel you may need. It’s always better to be “over” prepared then “under” prepared. One super small, but powerful, emergency tool I always have on me is a whistle that hooks up to my waterpack. Whistles are great to attract attention, signal help if you need it or possibly scare away an animal.
Note: If you are interested in the whistle we carry, it can be found at HERE
Recommendation: If you are in South Dakota and looking for another amazing hike besides Black Elk Peak, I recommend checking out Sunday Gulch Trail.