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.