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Sunday Gulch
Trip Report

Sunday Gulch

Sunday Gulch

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: South Dakota, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 43.84610°N / 103.56436°W

Object Title: Sunday Gulch

Date Climbed/Hiked: May 8, 2011

Activities: Hiking

Season: Spring


Page By: dwhike

Created/Edited: Feb 1, 2012 / Feb 1, 2012

Object ID: 774422

Hits: 1439 

Page Score: 77.3%  - 8 Votes 

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A Sunday Stroll...

A Sunday stroll through Sunday Gulch…sounds perfect doesn’t it? At the time I did this hike I was actually camping in the nearby Black Elk Wilderness but, after a couple days out, decided I liked the sound of making the trek back out to Sylvan Lake for a flush toilet and a beer. As an added bonus, Sunday Gulch would make a nice side trip (rumor told me that there might even be some snow to play in!)…

Sunday Gulch is the name given to the massive ravine that drops nearly 1000’ away from the northern end of the wildly popular Sylvan Lake. The plan was to combine the loops around the lake and through the gulch for a nice 4-ish mile stretch of the legs. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in for a treat!

Photo Journal...

Sylvan Lake

The dramatic rock wall that is the northern shore of Sylvan Lake was to be the first obstacle to cross. It’s not as impenetrable as it looks, the trail makes its way through without much climbing at all…

Strangely Quiet
Strangely Quiet

Snaking our way over the rock ledges above Sylvan Lake there were plenty of glimpses of thr remarkably uncrowded waters below…

Crossing the Ledges
Breaching the Wall

With little difficulty the trail breached the rock wall seen earlier and dropped off the back side of the lake...

Sunday Gulch Trailhead
Rising Above

Passing the Sunday Gulch Trailhead the cliffs really started to rise above us. The trail sign warned that the trail ahead was extremely steep and usually holds snow until June...like music to my ears!

Sunday Gulch
Going In

Amongst towering cliffs and house-sized boulders the trail drops into the gulch...

Gulch View
Looking Ahead

Every so often the cliffs would part enough to give limited views...but with the angle and the snow I found myself staring at my feet more than anything…

Crampons Anyone?
Sliding Time

A few places were particularly tricky to cross as in many places the four foot high railings were still buried (or nearly buried) in snow. It allowed me to break out my mean boot-skiing skills ...

Down, Down, Down
Not Down Yet

I was having no shortage of fun descending the gulch but at a certain point I found myself wondering, ”How much farther can it drop?” The answer...a lot farther.>

Sunday Gulch Smiles
Fun Time

There were more than a few places along this hike that I must have had the biggest, dumbest smile on my face...how can you not have fun in a place like this?

Trees & Rock
Trees & Rock

As the path neared the bottom of the gulch trees started to creep back between the rock walls and the stream...

Sunday Cliffs
I Wanna Climb

There were many places along this trail where a hiker, more adept at climbing than I, would have had no shortage of fun. I had to be content with just straining my neck...

A Peaceful Rest
A Short Break

Free of the narrow confines of the gulch the small creek I had been following since Sylvan Lake offered a nice place to stop, have a snack, and try not to think about the climb I was going to have ahead of me...

Hot Views

Walking out of the gulch was like walking into a sauna. Away from the gulch’s shadowy, snow covered depths I discovered the day had turned a lot warmer (not to mention I was the better part of 1000’ lower). It may have been the heat but the cliffs above which I was aiming for seemed much higher than that...

Mountain Pine Beetle Country
Entering the War Zone

The higher I climbed it seemed the less attractive the surrounding scenery became as the trail entered an area which was being “treated” for the Mountian Pine Beetle...

Trail Routing Madness
The Low Point

As if the heat wasn’t enough, suddenly the path broke out underneath power lines. Of all the protected forest in this area can someone please explain to me why there was no other option but to route the trail along a power line?! Honestly...

Conflicting Views
Conservation Dilemma

As I made my way through increasingly ravaged forests that had been cut to prevent the spread of the Mountain Pine Beetle I found myself in a mental argument over the benefits of this type of hard love. At what point does the solution present greater damage than the threat it is designed to control?

Spires North
Rewards of the Climb

After what seemed like an eternity the trail abated in its relentless ascent and even provided a few well-earned views of the high peaks and spires to the north...

The Black Hills

The morning I had set out on my little excursion, a number of my companions had set out for Harney Peak in the opposite direction. It was wonderful to sit, enjoy the view and the cool breeze, and appreciate the amazing day we all were having the good fortune to enjoy...

Um, We’re Eating

My next surprise of the hike came when I nearly ran smack into a small group of deer grazing along the trail just below the cliffs of Sylvan Lake. They didn’t seem to mind the intrusion, a sure sign I was re-entering an area where man is no stranger...

A Good Climb
A Decent Climb

Just before crossing back over to the lake there are a number of cool rock ledges that I spent some time scrambling around. From the top of a couple boulders there were good views back down the gulch and it was easy to appreciate why I was feeling a bit winded...

Thumb s Up
Thumb’s Up

Huge rock spires eventually marked my return to Sylvan Lake. At this point I was quite warm and worn out (I could’ve used a bit more water) so as much as I wanted to explore I thought it more prudent to just push on...

Sylvan Rocks
Return to the Lake

The trail pretty much by-passed the lakeshore cliffs as it returned to the lake. Passing a couple of employee cabins, it wasn’t long before I found myself back along the shore where I eagerly accepted the chance to refill my Camelback...

Sylvan Panorama

Before leaving I wanted to see the huge dam that must exist to hold back the waters of Sylvan Lake. After a short, refreshing, wade I stepped out onto one of the most unremarkable river barriers I’ve laid eyes on. Blocking a gap in the rock barely 15-feet wide, it’s dwarfed by the cliffs around it. No matter, the location provided a great place to sit reflect on a great hike...

Sylvan & Dan
That’s All!

Mileage Hiked: 4.5 miles
Trailhead Temp: 71'F
Min. Elevation: 5,600'
Max Elevation: 6,405'



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