South Dakota Vacation: Bear Butte

From the park entrance, a lovely view of Bear Butte.

Ahh, South Dakota. A place of rugged beauty and impressive nature that rivals some of the best. My dad took me on a two-week vacation to South Dakota when I was 14 and it was wonderful (except for that hike up Black Elk Peak). Nine years ago, I took my own kids out to South Dakota where I met up with my mom, stepdad, and grandma for a fun week out in Rapid City. On neither of those trips was I much of a hiker, so most of those trips were spent sightseeing and doing the regular tourist things. 

Fast forward to a few years ago, when I had become more of a seasoned hiker, and I mentioned to my dad that we should go back to tackle Black Elk Peak (BEP). Last year, I spent part of my vacation hiking various places with my dad, and we once again talked about taking on BEP, but this time more earnestly. So, we planned and hence found ourselves out in South Dakota together mid-July, with my kids and stepmom, for some hiking. Not one to waste an opportunity, and because we're the only family members he has besides his brother who will hike, he planned a few other things. One of those things was Bear Butte. At 4,426 feet, it's a bit more than half the elevation of BEP, but affords hikers a much more unobstructed view. 

Not far along the trail to the top.

The kids, also seasoned lovers of hiking, are younger, more agile, and quicker than Dad and me, so they went on ahead. Bear Butte is a sacred mount to the Native Americans and you can see prayer flags lining the path all the way to the top, although you see less and less the further up you hike.

While my kids were their own hiking team, Dad and I were also a hiking team, and he held the rear - something he's done ever since I can remember. 

Making our way to the top, we discovered dreamcatchers in the trees alongside the prayer flags.

You can see the trail we ascended off to the right. The trail to the top is like that the entire journey - a narrow, mostly rocky path that snakes up the mountainside.

It was a gorgeous hike, that much is for sure.

A view from the top, and what a beauty she is. No forestation on the mountain allows you to see, unhampered, for miles. The skies were crisp and clear that day as well, and I just sat there and admired it all.

I snapped this photo as I started my descent back down, and it really represents the trail in general.

One last shot as I was a little more than halfway down at this point.

While I didn't know, so hadn't expected, to climb Bear Butte until the week before we left, it was amazing to hike it. It was a way for me to see if the past year of training for this trip had paid off, while also being a way for me to get the nervousness I felt about BEP out of my mind. Besides all that, it was massive and gorgeous, and that always gives my mind a reset from all the stress and mundane aspects of my daily life. The Native Americans consider this a sacred and powerful place, and they're not wrong.


Rebecca said…
Love your hiking pics and the details about all!
H.A. Larson said…
Thank you so much, Rebecca! I'm glad you like them.

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