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Custer State Park, SD: Little Devils Tower

Scramble up Little Devils Tower on this 3-mile out-and-back that climbs 600 feet to otherworldly views of the Cathedral Spires and South Dakota’s highest peak.

Rating

This 3.1-miler  in the northwest corner of Custer State Park begins at the Sylvan Lake Trailhead and follows the blue-blazed Trail #4 around colossal boulders and ponderosa pine to the Little Devils Tower Trailhead. Start at this alternate location to shorten the roundtrip by an easy mile. Snaking eastward through quaking aspen and Black Hills spruce, the trail follows a babbling brook and splits in another half mile. This route follows the well-marked lefthand trail toward Little Devils Tower, turning sharply uphill and becoming increasingly rocky underfoot before taking a sharp left though an impressive, cave-like crack that flanks the trail.

Keep an eye on the blue blazes ahead: they mark the scramble through granite clefts and the final ramp to the peak. The summit greets with jaw-droping views of the Cathedral Spires to the southeast and equally stellar of Mt. Rushmore’s backside, the Black Elk Wilderness, and the brick fire-tower atop 7,242-foot Harney Peak just one mile to the north.

For a full-day adventure—and to make the most of the $12.00, 7-day vehicle fee—plan to spend some time at the swimming beach and loop trail around Sylvan Lake before hitting the road.

-Mapped by Steve Johnson

To Trailhead

Take US-16 through Custer, turning left onto Sylvan Lake Road. Drive 6 miles and turn right onto SD-87. In 0.3 miles turn left into Custer State Park and proceed 0.2 miles to the Sylvan Lake Trailhead Parking area.

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