I climbed Harney Peak, the Highpoint of South Dakota at 7242 feet, on Sunday, August 1st, 2004. It was my 26th state highpoint.
I left the Ace Motel, in Belle Fourche, SD, not too early on Sunday morning. It was one of the cleanest and nicest inexpensive motels I have ever stayed at and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality, inexpensive motel in the Black Hills area, especially on the drive to or from White Butte, ND. (See my North Dakota trip report for directions). I arrived at Custer State Park a little after Noon. I paid my $5.00 entrance fee and proceeded to the Sylvan Lake parking area. It was a very crowded Sunday afternoon and the parking area was full. I drove around several times before finding a parking place that I felt comfortable leaving my car unattended in for several hours. I was on my way home from a 6-week trip, to and from the Konvention in Washington, and my car was loaded with gear. I really didnít have much to choose from so I parked where I could.
I had noticed a group of hikers near a trailhead at the western part of the parking area, which is south of Sylvan Lake. Without rechecking the Wingerís or Holmesí guidebooks, or the trail map that was in the guide pamphlet that I received when I entered the park, I assumed that the trailhead I saw must be the correct one to Harney Peak. It turned out that it was A trailhead but not THE trailhead to Harney Peak. I started my hike at 1:00PM. It was a hot and sunny day. I wound up hiking in a westerly, then a southerly, direction for a while before heading back east and ultimately winding up on the #4 trail which I followed to where it intersects with the #9 trail. I continued on trail #9 to the summit of Harney Peak. I encountered quite a few people during my hike but the trails were not overly crowded. I enjoyed the hike very much. The various rock formations were interesting and the views were spectacular, especially from the summit. I spent about 30 minutes at the summit exploring the tower and surrounding area before heading back down. I followed trail #9 back to Sylvan Lake. I think trail #4 had better views and more fascinating rock formations. I arrived back at my car at 4:30PM for a 3 Ĺ hour roundtrip hiking time, even though my round about way of finding trail #4 added at least an extra mile or two to my total hiking distance. However since it was such a beautiful day for a hike Iím kind of glad that I took the extra scenic route.
It turned out that my car was parked about as close to the trailhead for trail #9 as I couldíve gotten. I probably would have seen it if I would have taken my time and looked around more closely. That will teach me to check the trail maps and guidebooks before starting out. Looking at my compass as I began my hike might have been a good idea also.