The Highpointers Foundation
Dedicated to education, support and conservation
of the highest point in each of the 50 United States.
State Highpoints South Dakota - 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak

South Dakota’s highest peak and the 15th highest US state summit, 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak, is located in southwest South Dakota in the Black Hills. Black Elk Peak is the highest peak in Pennington County, the Black Elk Wilderness, and the Black Hills National Forest. Black Elk Peak also has the distinction of being the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains in the US. With 2,932 feet of prominence, Black Elk is the most prominent peak in South Dakota, and the only P2K in the state. Formerly named Harney Peak, the mountain was renamed Black Elk Peak in 2016 in honor of Black Elk (1863-1950), medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. The Oglala Lakota Nation is one of the seven bands of the Titowan (Lakota) division of the Great Sioux Nation. They are a proud people with a rich history and culture.

The primary hiking route up Black Elk Peak starts at the Sylvan Lake Trailhead (43.8466,-103.5601) at 6,240 feet. Thus, the minimum elvation gain required for the ascent is just over 1,000 feet, but the trail does not go continuously up, so be prepared for a round trip gain of 1,600 feet over a round trip distance of 6.8 miles. The trail reaches a building on the summit that was built in the 1930s. The highest natural rock is where the trail meets the summit building. The summit area has great views in all directions. In general, the Class 1 Black Elk summit trail is well signed at the various junctions. Many hikers choose to take a different trail on their descent. This alternate trail is farther east and goes by several rock pinnacles called the Cathedral Spires, and passes by the rock feature with the name Little Devils Tower. This alternate trail is a scenic choice.

Highpointers Foundation Projects – Black Elk Peak
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2013 –> 2018 - Amount of financial assistance: $9,400

The Highpointers Foundation provided funding for labor and materials to help with a major tower building reconstruction. The old stone lookout was deterioting badly and in danger of being closed. Now, flagstone steps have been replaced as well as windows and doors. We also funded a beautiful stone bench halfway up the trail at the boundary of state and federal land. Summit hikers can pause here with a view of the summit, and this point could be an end goal for some visitors who would be challenged by the rough wilderness hike to the summit. Additional interpretive signs will be installed in 2018, funded by the Foundation. We have created a second stone bench, and that installation will take place in Spring 2018. This bench is along the alternate Trail #4 to the summit, near Little Devils Tower and the Cathedral Spires, with a nice view of the summit and stone tower.


Craig Renkert enjoying the SD bench.
Craig did a traverse over Denali in 1977,
now he’s visiting easier state summits.

The New Bench

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