OverviewLists 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.
The Scruton Mountain/Pactola area is rich in history. An old gold mining camp was set up at nearby Rapid Creek in 1875. The camp was first referred to as "Camp Crook", after General Crook, who camped there in 1876. But when the population swelled to 300 in 1877, the town was named Pactola. When construction for a reservoir began at the location in 1952, the buildings that were left were relocated to various nearby sites, and what is now left of Pactola is deep under the lake. Scuba diving is popular at Pactola, due to it's clear waters, and divers delight in seeing what is left of the old town of Pactola.
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
The route to the summit is very simple – just follow FS156. The roadway to the summit is quite narrow, and probably normally only sees forest service Jeeps. The grade is fairly steady, starting at about 5,240 feet with a steady ascent to the summit at 5,922 feet, at just under 2 miles. The surface changes back and forth from rough shale to sandy with small pebbles. It's a fairly easy hike with great views and lots of solitude.
For another view on the route, click on this link: Scruton Mountain Route.
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 climb up to the top. It should go without saying that building a campfire in any non-designated area will get one in trouble. Fireworks will also bring trouble quickly.
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. For more information on South Dakota hunting seasons, click on this link:
South Dakota Hunting Season Information
MapsScruton Mountain lies in the Silver City USGS Quad. A 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. The National Forest Service also has an excellent Black Hills map for sale.
Resources & Links
Forest Service Campground Guide
Pactola Forest Service Office
Black Hills Forest Service Information
Pactola Lake Information