Hiking Bear Butte, Spring 2018

Bear Butte 1.jpg

Spring and early summer are excellent times for recreational hikers in our region. You don’t have to be a master rock climber or have any special equipment to enjoy some of the most popular hiking sites in the Black Hills.

Recently, we had the opportunity to hike Bear Butte. At 1251 feet, Bear Butte is the third most prominent summit in Western South Dakota. On clear days, you can see up to four states away from the peak! You can also see some of the other Black Hills landmarks, like Terry Peak, Crow Peak and Custer Peak.

Hiking Bear Butte will take just a couple of hours in good weather. You’ll want to dress in layers if you’re going out in the spring, as our weather has a tendency to shift and change! Bring water, a light snack and a walking stick, as some parts of the hike require a little balance and dexterity.

Bear Butte is considered a sacred site for Native Americans, including the Lakota Sioux tribe. You will see many prayer cloths and bundles along the way. The public is asked to be respectful of these objects of worship. Please do not disturb them or photograph them.

The remnant of a volcano that failed to erupt many thousands of years ago, Bear Butte has two sections – the area around the mountain itself and the area around  Bear Butte Lake. You’ll see buffalo roaming around and hear the chirp of many native birds.

The trailhead to the summit of Bear Butte is 1.85 miles long. It’s a little rough and rocky in some places, hence a recommendation for a walking stick. There are railings in selected spots but in the steepest slope, a series of makeshift ladders laid down in a path will be your guide.

You can camp at Bear Butte and picnic with friends and family. But if you just want to take in a beautiful hike alone on a clear Spring day, this is a great place for the amateur hiker.

Please be mindful that rattlesnakes are present. A warm (but not hot) Spring day is a likely time that you may see them. They’re usually along the path and if they are not bothered, they won’t bother you back.

Bear Butte used to be covered in trees but a 1996 fire destroyed much of those trees. You’ll see new growth, but it will be many years for this recovery to be complete. It goes without saying that you should not light any fires on the mountain.

Admission to the park is $6 per vehicle per day. Camping sites are also available for a small fee and there are public restrooms, picnic areas, boat launches and fishing sites along the lake.

Rushmore Family Chiropractic reminds you that hiking is great exercise for the young and the old. We encourage you to explore the unique and spectacular sites in the Black Hills. Let Mother Nature be your workout facility and gym!