Monday, July 9, 2012


Sunday, July 8 – We headed back to Harney Peak in Custer State Park today to hike to the top of the mountain. We were here on Friday, but the trail was getting crowded. We decided to postpone the hike until another day.


Harney Peak is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains and west to the Pyrenees (in Europe) at 7,242 feet. In 1938 the Conservation Corp constructed a fire tower lookout that is no longer in use but is open to hikers.

This mountain is considered sacred land to the American Indians that lived in the Dakotas. We saw several pieces of prayer cloth tied in the trees by native Americans.

prayer cloth

We decided to get an early start to beat the public to the trail. We hit the trail by 7:30 and only saw one fellow before reaching the top. The trail twists and turns through the pine forest and through a great deal of the forest destroyed by the pine beetle. What those foresters must go through to work on the side of a mountain.

The trail takes on many different looks.DSC08276

Harney trail

rocks over strem

Lots of beautiful scenery along the way.

Cathedral Spires
Cathedral Spires

Black Elk Wilderness sign

Once we entered the Black Elk Wilderness, we had to register.
Paul registering at Black Elk Wilderness.

In the middle of the trail is a pretty rugged and steep climb.

Paul on rugged Harney trail

Marsha on rugged Harney trail

We thought we must be about to reach the summit. Nope, instead of continuing upward, we turned downward to skirt around a canyon.

Paul going down part of Harney trail

This is where we got our first view of the fire tower lookout – on the neighboring ridge. Jeesh! With a long climb ahead, we push on.

Can you see it waaaaaaaay over there?
Fire tower on Harney Peak

The last quarter mile is steep and pretty rugged. Finally, we reached the stairs at the foot of the tower and are soon rewarded with an unbelievable view.

Harney Peak stairs

The clouds were blowing in just as we reached the top. We rushed to get some pictures before we were completely fogged-in.

viewHarney Peak Lookout

Harney Peak Lookout

Darn that fog.
fog on peak

We climbed the steep steps to the top.Lookout

Proof we made it!
Us in Lookout

The hike down was pretty easy. Most of it is downhill, but there are several uphill sections to remind us of the big climb we just finished. It took us almost as much time to climb down off the mountain as it did to climb up. It's surprising how steep some of the slopes were on the climb.

Paul going back down trail

It was a long and pretty tough climb, but we are sure glad we did it. The round trip was about seven miles. It took us four hours to complete the hike. Now, let's see if our kids, Kelly and Carrie, can top mom and dad. We've hiked the highest peak east of the Rockies, you have a lifetime to out-do-us!

There were hundreds of these little guys running all over the trail.

We did more on Sunday but we will tell you about that in our next blog.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see y'all back real soon.


  1. Wow! We really admire your fortitude in climbing Haney Peak. What a beautiful view!

  2. We will have to do this climb vicariously through you....John would never make it.

  3. Looks like a great hike, and good workout!

  4. Thanks for the great trail pictures, now I can scratch Harney peak off my bucket list and concentrate on teaching Bella how to relax.

  5. what a great hike and a nice view at the top..darn fog though!..but you made it up and down..good for you both!!!

  6. Man oh man, you guys are certainly intrepid hikers! Nice view from the top of the top, there. Thanks for sharing all the photos. Paul will become muscle bound if you don't make him slow down a little.

  7. You two are very ambitious! Thanks for taking me along on all of your hikes. Hope I didn't slow you down too much! ;)

  8. We missed that trail when we were there. Now we enjoyed it without working up a sweat:)

  9. Okay .. I'm going to just sit here and pretend I did that hike. That's as close as I'll get. At least I got see what you saw. I'm all worn out now.

  10. Way to go guys. That looks like a great hike. I would need a walking stick for those down hill parts, they kill my knees. I'll have to see if I can find one....hehe. Be safe

  11. Wow! You guys are an inspiration to the rest of us! Cant wait to get back to the western scenery and the wonderful hikes. thanks for showing us the way. I would have been nervous getting back down in the fog, and not losing my way.

  12. Wow! You guys are an inspiration to the rest of us! Cant wait to get back to the western scenery and the wonderful hikes. thanks for showing us the way. I would have been nervous getting back down in the fog, and not losing my way.

  13. I use to camp on Harney a long time ago and make that hike frequently... glad you got to enjoy it.

  14. Huff, huff, huff, I am exhausted just thinking about that climb. You two are something!

    Great meeting you and hope to see you down the road. Enjoy the Rapid City area and safe travels back to Ohio.

  15. Glad you got to finish the hike. I remember coming back down we couldn't believe how much uphill there was!

  16. WOW, congrats on completing that hike. That is some accomplishment. Thanks for taking us along on the hike.

  17. That's what I call a pretty good hike! That fire tower at the top was pretty amazing - what a structure.

    Going back down the mountain always feels sooooo good after hiking to the top.

  18. I want to know who carried all the stuff up there to build the tower?

  19. Whoooo Wheeee. . .hats off to you guys. . .I doubt I will EVER hike seven miles. . .EVER! LOL. . .but I admire your fortitude and stamina. . .

    Way to go. . .


  20. Great hike, guys! We've been stuck so long it will be hard to get back into shape to hike again but can't wait. It really makes you appreciate mother nature and all her glorious talent. Have fun.

  21. We would have gotten as far as the sign and turned around, thanks to your great photos we don't have to

  22. Harney Peak is a great hike. I believe the sacred summit gains an appreciation because we have to put forth some effort and earn our way to the highest peak in the Black Hills. The entire Black Hills and beyond comes into view from the granite peak.


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