Route: Black Elk Peak (SD)

South Dakota, US
6.8 mi
Vertical Gain
1,472 ft


Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) is the highest natural point in South Dakota, United States. It lies in the Black Elk Wilderness area, in southern Pennington County, in the Black Hills National Forest.[2] The peak lies 3.7 mi (6.0 km) west-southwest of Mount Rushmore.[5] At 7,242 feet (2,207 m),[1] it has been described by the Board on Geographical Names as the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. It is also known as Hiŋháŋ Káǧa (in Lakota).

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which has jurisdiction in federal lands, officially changed the mountain's name from "Harney Peak" to "Black Elk Peak" on August 11, 2016, honoring Black Elk, the noted Lakota Sioux medicine man for whom the Wilderness Area is named.[6]

Professional but unofficial measurements in 2016 found the highest natural rock to be at 7,231.32 feet (2,204.11 m) NAVD88 and the nearby secondary peak slightly lower at 7,229.41 feet (2,203.52 m).[7][8]

Christopher Luhman suggests the following loop variation: This trail loop allows you to reach South Dakota's highest natural point and take in additional views/terrain in Custer State Park from Trails #3 and #4. This loop route can be run either direction but starts/ends at either Harney Peak (Trail #9) Trailhead or Trail #4 Trailhead. You will either begin or end the route with a short road connector between the two trailheads.

For more information on this route, see the following link/description:

Black Elk Peak Loop via Harney Peak Trail and Trail 4 - South Dakota | Gaia GPS


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Profile picture for user Sharleen Stevens

If conditions are favorable, I will be setting off tomorrow, June 26th, around 6 a.m. to set the women's FKT. 

Due to recurring rainfall, I waited a day to let the trail dry out. I set out just after 6:00 am on Saturday, June 27th and it was a pretty perfect morning for it. I started my watch right where the trail meets the parking lot, touched the marker on the lookout tower, and came right back down, stopping my watch at the end of the trail (not the trail #9 sign) for a time of 1:24:42.

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Profile picture for user Jilly Wojta

We are in South Dakota on vacation from Wisconsin. Hiked little devils tower yesterday  with my family and figured I’d give black elk peek a whirl this morning!

That's awesome! How did it go? According to strava, even though you blew me out of the water, it looks like you started and finished up the trail a bit farther. Good luck!

Looks to me like the fastest recorded men's time on Strava for the 3, 4, 9 loop is this one by Chris Hirsch in 65:03.

I'll be in SD this weekend for Lean Horse and hope to give this loop a good spin. 

I completed the counterclockwise variant in 54:18: It appears that Golden Harper did the clockwise loop in ~58 minutes in 2020: which is actually the previous fastest recorded time that I can find. It appears that most people do the clockwise direction. In retrospect, that direction is probably a little faster, as trail 4 has a gentler average grade and a shorter uphill section on the downhill.