Location: Harney Peak, Black Hills, South Dakota
|Harney Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota|
Another day, another State Highpoint climbed! If you haven't figured it out by now, I am trying to climb the 50 state highpoints of the United States. This is another one of my life long goals which so far has taken me to some crazy parts of the country: Hood and Rainier were serious mountaineering challenges, Whitney was done on a 230 mile long backpacking trip, Katahdin was absolutely one of the most rugged mountains in the country ect... its been a good run so far.
Harney Peak sits at 7,242ft and is the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe! The Black Hills themselves have been a charming place for both tourists and serious climbers alike. You might be familiar with Mt Rushmore, the famous stone carvings of four American Presidents; Harney Peak is less than 10 miles away from that site.
|The same granite that makes up Mt Rushmore composes Harney Peak|
Well I had to see the infamous Mt. Rushmore before climbing Harney Peak! The area is an architectural masterpiece. Much has already been written about Mt Rushmore so I won't write anything more than what I thought. I found it to be an exquisitely well done feet of sculpture and worthy of the accomplishments of those four men who have so profoundly shaped our country and the world.
Onward to Harney! I decided to take the Willow Creek Trail to the top because its much less crowded. Sylvan Lake is the easiest route up but it is neither scenic nor challenging. Willow Creek is a 10 mile roundtrip trail which meanders through the pine forests and by several creeks along the way to the top. I saw only one other person on the trail! I'm climbing Harney a little early in the season so the trail is very poorly maintained. It's not difficult to follow, but there are several fallen trees on the trail from winter storms.
The hike gains roughly 1,000ft of elevation to the summit and is strenuous at times. If you're worried about distance, take the Sylvan Lake Trail. Along the way you will see many pinnacles and large rock outcroppings. Climbers are very fond of these areas and if you get far enough away from the road, you could be the first or second person to ascend those routes!
It took only a couple of hours to reach the summit. There is an abandoned fire lookout tower on the top which allows the hiker to climb another 10ft for a panoramic view. It interesting to note that without the stairs to the fire lookout, the last 50ft would be a Class 5 climb! Nevertheless, the summit is bare which allows views all the way to the Rocky Mountains on a clear day. Additionally, you can see the great swaths of pine forests of the Black Hills.
|Views of the Black Hills|
I was able to spend about a half an hour on the summit and I chatted with some other hikers. One group was on their way to Alaska and was stopping by Glacier National Park and even Banff National Park in Alberta! Apparently I'm not the only one who's on an epic road trip to see National Parks!
So there's my 10th highpoint! It wasn't quite as rugged as the Cascade climbs nor as green as the New England climbs, but it was an adventure in itself. This is the only mountain in the midwest that has some serious elevation gain and its worth climbing whether or not you're a highpointer!
To date, I've climbed 10 state highpoints-
Mt. Whitney, California - 14,496ft
Mt. Elbert, Colorado - 14,440ft
Mt. Rainier, Washington - 14,411ft
Mt. Humphreys, Arizona - 12,633ft
Mt. Hood, Oregon - 11,239ft
Harney Peak, South Dakota - 7,242ft
Mt. Washington, New Hampshire - 6,288ft
Panorama Point, Nebraska - 5,429ft
Mt. Katahdin, Maine - 5,267ft
Mt. Mansfield, Vermont - 4,393ft
So I'm a 1/5th of the way there! But hey, I've done some of the really difficult ones like Hood and Rainier!