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Not only is it the highest natural point in South Dakota, Black Elk Peak is also the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Named for General William S. Harney, a military commander in the Black Hills in the late 1870s, a fire lookout tower was built on the summit by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Today, the peak boasts fantastic 360-degree views of the Black Hills. The site is also an important Native American landmark that was the site of Black Elk’s “Great Vision.”
The summit can be reached directly from Sylvan Lake by two trailheads. Trail #9 begins just across the footbridge leading to the swimming beach at Sylvan Lake. It is generally considered the least strenuous and most popular route. You can also connect to the Harney Peak Trail #4 at the southeast corner of the Day Use area on the Lake.
Please note that Black Elk Peak is located in the Black Elk Wilderness Area. As a U.S. Wilderness area, travel is restricted to non-mechanized, non-motorized transportation and groups are limited to 25 “beating hearts”—including pets.