OverviewLists of John gives Veterans Peak 343 feet of prominence. There is a beautiful shady little road to the summit that runs generally in a northeasterly direction. This is a short, but fun hike that is popular not only with area hikers, but with geocachers as well. ATV’s are seen occasionally on the road during warm weather. So, while it is possible to have the whole mountain to yourself, it is not a sure thing. The view at the top is limited in some directions, due to tree growth encroaching on what was once a more open summit area. However, one can still see major peaks in the distance, including Harney Peak, Terry Peak, Custer Peak and a few others.
The fire lookout tower that used to be at the summit was originally built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Its’ usefulness was cut short sometime in the 1950’s, when it was taken down. One of the radio towers now standing at the summit occupies the same space the old fire lookout tower occupied.
Veterans Peak has not been hit as hard by pine beetles as other areas in the Black Hills. Ponderosa pine is the dominant variety of tree here, but there are some aspen in the area too. The forest is managed by the Northern Hills Ranger District in Spearfish. There is quite a bit of poison ivy on the mountain, so when hiking there please be watching for it. Deer are often seen on Veterans Peak. Elk are also seen here, but not nearly as often. Wildflowers are in abundance, along with a large population of bees and butterflies.
Getting ThereThe shortest and best route to travel to Veterans Peak is by way of Vanocker Canyon Road. From Sturgis travel southwest 5.5 miles from Interstate 90, on Vanocker Canyon Road, to FSR139. As soon as you turn on to FSR139, there will be a branch in the road. The road on the left is FSR139.1C, which is your route to the summit.
It is only about a .8-mile hike to the summit, with about 330 feet of rise. There is little traffic on this road, but there is no guarantee you will have the mountain to yourself. Service vehicles rarely travel to the radio towers at the summit, but ATV traffic in the summer happens almost daily. The highpoint (geodetic marker) at the summit is on the north side of the north radio tower.
Red TapeThere is no red tape to hike Veterans Peak. Campfires will be the greatest concern of most national forest service officials in the area.
When to Climb
You may wish to postpone a hike during big-game hunting seasons. But if you do go, please wear plenty of orange. More information on South Dakota Hunting Season dates can be found at this link:
South Dakota Hunting Season Dates
Winter storms and summer lightning are also concerns in planning a hike. To access the latest forecast and conditions for the Veterans Peak area, click here:
Veterans Peak – Sturgis Area Weather
CampingBlack Hills National Forest Camping Regulations, particularly about campfires.
If you prefer to stay at a campground, there is an abundance of them in the area. The links below should provide some nearby options for you:
Black Hills National Forest Campgrounds
Sturgis Chamber of Commerce Campground & Accommodations List
Forest Service Office & LinkBlack Hills National Forest Office
1019 North 5th Street
Custer, SD 57730