Sunday, January 17, 2010


Bear Butte stands alone in character - a laccolith, set apart from the Black Hills just north of Sturgis, it is one of the most sacred places for the Lakota. At 4,426 feet it is not very high relative to other mountains in the Black Hills, but since it is on the plains the view is spectacular.

Bear Butte is part of a State park, so there is an entrance fee if you don't have a SD Park Pass. There is an exemption for tribal members; just have proof of enrollment and it's free.

A well-established and maintained trail leads to a wooden viewing platform at the top. Stairs lead up the final few yards. It is steep in places, but the improvements keep the hike easy. Prayer flags are everywhere, as many tribal members come here for their hanbleciya (vision quest) or just to offer prayers. Wildlife is abundant, sometimes subtle, but ever present. Bison roam at the base, deer hide among the trees near the base, hawks and eagles are frequently circling above. There is a sense of other-worldliness to this trail; it is the closest thing I can imagine to a natural cathedral. (YDS Class 2: improved trail)

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