If you ask Black Hills residents where Scruton Mountain is, many will tell you they have never heard of it. But, if you ask the same people where the Seth Bullock Lookout is, most can tell you it is just south of Pactola Lake, near Highway 385. At 5,922 feet in altitude, Scruton Mountain provides a great location for the Seth Bullock Lookout. According to Lists of John, Scruton Mountain has 342 feet of prominence. The summit and tower (53 feet high) provide great views of Pactola Lake (4,580 feet altitude), 3 miles to the north and numerous peaks in almost all directions, including Harney Peak, the Black Hill's highest.
Most of the mountain is covered with Ponderosa pine, though there are some aspen there as well. Shales, quartzite, and granite formations are common on Scruton Mountain. Wildlife commonly seen in the area includes deer, elk, pronghorns, marmots and wild turkeys. Close to 200 varieties of birds can be seen in this region of the Black Hills. Osprey are one of the favorites for bird watchers around Pactola. Less commonly seen animals include bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, and eagles.
The first fire lookout tower was built on Scruton Mountain in the 1930's. The second was built on new foundations at the same location in the 1950's. When the current tower was built, it was relocated further west of the site of the first two. The foundations of the first two towers can still be seen at the eastern edge of the summit. The lookout was named after Seth Bullock, famous western sheriff, who was a close personal friend of Teddy Roosevelt. Bullock was famous for cleaning up the rowdy town of Deadwood.
Getting There & Route Information
For more information on the route, click on this link: Scruton Mountain Route Page.
Red TapeThis is all on public lands, so there should be no red tape. If you go up during summer months, you will usually find the tower manned. If so, you can usually go up to the top.
CautionsDo not count on water being available at the summit, so bring an adequate supply with you. Though there are not many ticks in this area, repellent is still not a bad idea from spring through late summer. This is one of the few summits near 6,000 feet altitude that has a reputation for rattlesnakes. Caution is warranted. Mountain lions are seen in the area, though few problems have been reported for hikers.
When to Climb
Scruton Mountain - Pactola Lake Area Weather
Please also be aware of South Dakota hunting seasons in late fall and early spring. If you choose to hike then, please wear plenty of orange.
MapsA very useful map for the area is the National Geographic Black Hills North Map. And if you would like a good map for forest service roads in the area, you can obtain a free Motor Vehicle Use Map from any forest service office in the area.
Resources & Links
Forest Service Campground Guide
Pactola Forest Service Office
Black Hills Forest Service Information
Pactola Lake Information