OverviewLists of John the peak is the #9 ranked summit in the Black Hills, at 6,962 feet and with 312 feet of prominence. Even though it is one of the Black Hills highest summits, it is fairly easy to reach the top, due to numerous old mining and logging roads in the area (many unmarked).
Because of the thick forest on most of the mountain, views from the summit area are quite restricted. Pine beetle kill has destroyed enough trees in the area that expanded summit views will increase in the coming years.
The almost flat terrain at the summit, makes it difficult to find the true high point without a GPS. The Mystic Ranger District, (605) 343-1567, of the National Forest Service manages this area of the Black Hills. Cell phone reception in this area of the Black Hills is spotty at best.
Like many of the summits in the western Black Hills and other parts of the Limestone Plateau, part of the mountain is steep while the rest of the sides are fairly gentle. White Tail Peak’s limestone bluffs are predominantly on the east and southeast part of the mountain. While ponderosa pines are prevalent here, one also sees quite a few spruce and aspen trees. There are some oaks and willows along Rapid Creek to the north and North Castle Creek to the south. The creek canyons in the area all provide excellent color in the fall. Forest service officials recommend Road 233 as a route to view large limestone outcroppings and beaver complexes during fall colors expeditions. The North Fork Castle Creek Natural Area lies on the southern edge of White Tail Peak.
A mining town, Black Fox, sprang up in the late 1800’s about two miles to the northwest of White Tail Peak’s summit. What little is now left of Black Fox is an empty ghost town. The Black Fox Campground is very close to that old ghost town.
At one time, White Tail Peak was also known as Copper Reef Mountain. The Black Hills Copper Company operated mines on the peak from 1899-1919. Falling copper prices doomed the operation. After the mine closed, all the mine shafts collapsed and there is little left of its brief glory.
Getting ThereForest Service Road 190 (FSR190) passes over White Tail Peak, not far from the summit. FSR190 can be accessed from the east by way of South Rochford Road (between Deerfield Reservoir and Rochford). From the west, FSR190 can be accessed from FSR233, which connects on the north end to Road 231, the South Rapid Road. Rochford is at the east end of the South Rapid Road and Highway 85 is at the west end. FSR233 connects at the south end with Road 110, which leads back to Deerfield Reservoir.
East Approach: If you want a well-defined route up the steepest side, you can hike the 4 miles from South Rochford Road up FSR190 to the junction with 190.1Q. From there, it is about one-half mile to the summit. If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and do not want to hike the whole way, you can park at the junction of FSR190 and FSR190.1A – about 3 miles. This will give you a steep hike to that junction with FSR190.1Q, with an altitude gain of about 500 feet. The half-mile to the summit on FSR190.1Q is pretty easy.
West Approach: If your preference is access from the west, you can generally drive all the way from FSR233 to FSR190.1Q – at least if there is not any deadfall across the road. And of course, you could also hike that route. Since much of it has little incline, it’s a very easy hike through mostly thick forest with generally very little vehicle traffic.
Off-Trail Options: Besides bushwhacking to the summit from anywhere along FSR190, you can also bushwhack up from FSR190.1A, which starts on the southeast side of the mountain and winds around to the south side. Also there is at least one unmarked ATV route from this branch to the summit area.
Red TapeThere are no specific prohibitions for White Tail Peak. However, there are the Black Hills National Forest Regulations. Forest fires are always a major concern, so improper or illegal campfires can often bring an unpleasant visit from the nearest ranger.
When to Climb
White Tail Peak – Deerfield Area Weather Forecast & Conditions
Hunting seasons will also be a concern, since this area is open to all types of hunting. Click here to learn more about the South Dakota Hunting Seasons.
Camping or Lodging Choices
Black Fox Campground
Black Hills National Forest Camping Regulations
Deerfield Reservoir Complex
Deerfield Beach Campgrounds
Hill City Lodging & Camping
National Forest Service Headquarters Contact InfoBlack Hills National Forest Headquarters
1019 North 5th Street
Custer, SD 57730