Hiking Near Hill City, SD

The southwestern corner of South Dakota is full of some of the most beautiful hikes in the country. From the granite spires in Custer State Park to the Black Hills National Forest, there are hundreds of hiking trails.

It is difficult to pick out the best hikes in the area when there are so many routes to choose from. We've narrowed the list for you in this article. Here, you'll find some of our favorite hiking trails near Hill City and Rapid City, South Dakota. You'll notice that our top picks are Custer State Park hiking trails because, well, the best hikes in the area happen to be there.

Black Elk Peak Hike via Harney Peak Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Roundtrip Distance: 6.4 Miles
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,499 feet

Black Elk Peak, formerly known as Harney Peak, is the highest point in South Dakota. With a height of 17,242 feet or 2,207 meters, it is the highest peak east of the rocky mountains. The trailhead departs from Custer State Park and rises high above the Black Elk Wilderness. A Stone fire tower sits on the top of the peak that was built in 1938 for people to watch out for forest fires. Decommissioned in 1967, the fire tower is a perfect viewpoint for hikers reaching the summit.

There are eight different trails you can take to get to the top of Black Elk Peak but the shortest route is the Harney Peak Trail that starts at the Sylvan Lake parking lot.

Little Devil's Tower Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Roundtrip Distance: 3.6 Miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 751 feet

The other route you can take on your way to the top of Black Elk Peak is the Little Devil's Tower Loop which adds an extra hour to your Black Elk Peak Hike. You can also hike these trails in separate trips as well by taking the Little Devil's Tower Trail. This hike is a favorite of many people who visit Custer State Park because of its fantastic views of the cathedral spires and the Black Elk Fire Tower. 

Cathedral Spires Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Roundtrip Distance: 1.6 Miles
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 488 feet

Named after the rock formations that look like church steeples, the Cathedral Spires are fascinating to see up close. This unique hike will feel fairly easy at first, but halfway in you'll encounter some short rock scrambles that raise your elevation towards the large granite spires. The Cathedral Spires trailhead is located just down the road from Needles Eye Tunnel on Needles Highway. 

Sunday Gulch Trail

  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Roundtrip Distance: 3.9 Miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 797 feet

Known as one of the more challenging Custer State Park hiking trails, Sunday Gulch Trail starts by looping around Sylvan lake behind the dam. The best time of year to hike the trail is between June and October due to spring runoff causing part of the trail to be submerged earlier in the year. Although it's a slightly more challenging hike than the others, it is one of the most scenic strolls in the Black Hills. The moss-covered granite descend into the gulch is gorgeous and the hike back out of the gulch will be an uphill climb back to the lake. 

Crow Peak Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Roundtrip Distance: 6.8 Miles
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1568 feet

This igneous rock mountain that peeks out over the tree line and the surrounding landscape used to be covered by an ocean billions of years ago. Ranked as one of the best hikes in South Dakota, the Crow Peak trail is a great place to trek without running into crowds of people. Located just outside of Spearfish, you'll be able to look over the Black Hills National Forest as you reach the summit.