The fire lookout tower at the summit was constructed 1937-1938 and is still used, though generally only during fire seasons. It is now on the National Historic Lookout Register. There are several other small buildings at the summit, plus some ruins of earlier structures. The views from the summit are clear and pretty much unobstructed. Perhaps the easiest summits to identify from Custer Peak would be Harney Peak to the south-southeast, Bear Butte to the northeast, and Terry Peak to the north.
In 1893, the peak was used for a USGS triangulation station, along with Harney Peak near the town of Custer, and Bear Butte near Sturgis. In 1925, a USGS brass cap on a pipe was placed at the summit. Today, there are three markers, all near the tower.
Getting There & Route
The forest service office number is (605) 673-9200.
Route: The final stretch to the summit is less than 1 mile. I would not recommend trying to drive this section, as it seems to be for ranger use only. It is very narrow and there are no intersections, meaning that if anyone encounters a forest service vehicle coming down, it would be a very difficult process backing down a long way. Eventually you will come to a very small parking lot. The last segment goes up the ranger parking space, then turns into a rocky trail to the fire lookout tower.
Custer Peak map details are shown on the Minnesota Ridge USGS Quad Map. A great map for this area is the National Geographic Black Hills North map. Also quite helpful is the free "Bearlodge and Northern Hills Ranger District" Motor Vehicle Use Map.
There are also vehicle restrictions from the junction of Forest Roads 216.1 & 216.2. Only small to medium-sized 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed from that point. Road 216.2A gets quite narrow, so if you are actually trying to drive that section, please be prepared for some long backing if you encounter a forest service jeep or another vehicle.
When to ClimbThis is all public land, so the summit is normally opened year-around. But heavy winter snow could mean you might need to snowshoe to the summit. During times of serious drought and frequent forest fires, the access to the summit is closed. Summer lightning can also be a deterrent to a hike. For the latest weather for the area, click here:
Custer Peak - Lead, South Dakota Weather
National Forest Campgrounds
Deadwood Chamber of Commerce
Black Hills Campgrounds.com
South Dakota State Parks