Denise & Michael climbing up the water covered stairs at Sunday Gulch Trail

Hiking Sunday Gulch Trail

Hiking Sunday Gulch Trail in South Dakota is nothing short of INCREDIBLE. Before going to South Dakota for the first time in 2018, I really didn’t know much about South Dakota. I knew Mount Rushmore was there but didn’t know much beyond that. Boy was I ever surprised at everything South Dakota has to offer.

Although there are many amazing places in South Dakota, for this post I am going to focus on Sunday Gulch Trail. This trail is located near Custer, South Dakota. The trail is rated as “difficult.” It did have some challenges that were a bit sketchy. One challenge was climbing up some concrete steps, in an area of boulders, where the water was flowing heavily over the steps that had shifted the steps over the years. It goes without saying, wear good shoes with excellent grip when going here.

The trail is approximately 4 miles and is a loop. Most loops are pretty easy to maneuver but this trail does have some parts that could be a bit tricky so pay attention to your GPS map if you have one. As with any trail, look around to see which direction best “fits” and look at a map PRIOR to hitting the trail.

Which Direction to Hike?

When we started out, we went clockwise so we could climb the stairs “up” rather then go “down.”  Since it was our first time, we liked the idea of pulling ourselves up rather than down.  I think counter-clockwise would have been just as fun though.

When we started out, it was a rather rocky (but fun) start. Be sure to mind your step as there are many roots and rocks you will encounter during the hike. We encountered a bit of everything we hoped for during this hike. There were many unique rock features, cool rocks, caves, fun scrambling, water features and beautiful foliage.

What to Bring

I feel like it goes without saying that water is essential (but I’ll say it anyways). Non-perishable snacks for energy and electrolytes are great to throw in your pack. Great shoes with excellent grip are a must. Also recommended are moisture wicking socks. Our favorite hiking socks are Darn Tough which hold up for long hikes and wicks moisture away from you keeping your feet dry. If you are prone to blisters (like me), use mole skin on any “hot spot” areas that tend to blister. Of course safety items and a small first aid kit are always a good idea for any hike. Always be prepared for the unexpected is a motto I live by when enjoying the great outdoors.

What Season is Best for Hiking Sunday Gulch Trail

Although we went in the summer, I think fall hiking would be beautiful with the colors changing on the trees. There are also people that hike this in the winter. If you plan on winter hiking, bring some sort of ice “yak type” tracks to put on your shoes as you’ll most likely come across ice during the trek. You may also want to plan for an “out and back” rather than the full loop as the steps I mentioned above could be fully iced over and dangerous.

No matter when you take on this hike, you will find beautiful views as the elevation changes as well as the gorgeous gulch.

Note: If you enjoy hikes where you will experience a variety of elevation, water features and fauna, I recommend checking out Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio.


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