A Bear of a Butte

Driving to Bear Butte State Park, South Dakota

Bear Butte from the road leading into the park

Bear Butte State Park is a nice little park in the north-west corner of South Dakota.  Its main attraction is Bear Butte (what a coincidence!), a butte-shaped mountain that sticks up from the fairly flat land surrounding it, although Bear Butte Lake also draws quite a few people to the park.  The Butte can be seen from quite a ways away and is very impressive from the road leading into the park—get your pictures of the butte from here, because after you get up to the visitor center you are on the Butte, and too close for good pictures of the Butte itself.  From the top of the Butte you can get a wonderful view of the four surrounding states (South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming).  The park is located 6 miles northeast of Sturgis, South Dakota, off of SD Hwy. 79.



The trail to the top of the butte starts from the parking lot of the visitor center on the side of the parking lot closest to the butte.  The trail goes up from the parking lot and soon comes to a couple of out houses, a drinking fountain, and a small shaded shelter where you can get out of sun.  After this place there is no more water so make sure you have plenty before continuing.  The trail continues to climb for the rest of the hike, but it is not too steep in most places, and there are a few places where there is some shade where you can rest (depending on the time of day you are hiking).  (A map of the trail can be found Here)

As you climb, there are plenty of nice views out into the surrounding countryside, but the nicest views are from the top.  At the top there is a wooden platform that you go onto at the end of the trail.  This platform is here because the American Indians use this mountain as a place of worship and they don’t want people walking all over the top of the butte.  Also, they request that you not take pictures or disturb the offerings that have been left on the mountain.

Visitor Center at Bear Butte State Park, South Dakota

The parking lot, as seen from the top of the butte

From the platform, you can get a really beautiful view of the Black Hills to the southeast and see why they were named this, as they really do look black from a distance.  To the west you can see Montana and Wyoming, to the north you can see North Dakota, and all around you can see South Dakota.  It is really cool to be able to see so many states from one place.


The park also has camping (16 regular sites at $8 a night and 4 horse cam sites at $10 a night; sites do not have electricity (4/10)), picnicking, and boating and fishing (including a boat ramp) at nearby Bear Butte Lake (which you can see from the top of the butte).

Another interesting thing about the park is that it is the northern trailhead for the 111-Centennial Trail, which ends in Wind Caves National Park.  A map and further information about the trail can be found

Round Trip Trail Length: 4 miles

Facilities: Visitor Center, parking area, water, campground

Fees: There is an entrance fee of $3.00 person or $6.00 per vehicle (11 and younger are free); $28 for an annual pass (4/10).  Temporary 7 day entrances passes from Custer State Park are also accepted.  There are also yearly passes for the park.

Hours: The Butte is open to visitors from 8am to 7pm.

Trail ★★★★☆

Road ★★★★☆

Signs ★★★☆☆

Scenery ★★★★☆

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★☆☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆


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