Little Devils Tower

Page Type
Trip Report
South Dakota, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
May 6, 2011
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Little Devils Tower
Created On: Jul 25, 2011
Last Edited On: Jan 31, 2012

Sometimes You Don't Plan Great Hikes...

Little Devils TowerLittle Devils Tower

Up until the afternoon I climbed it I had never heard of Little Devils Tower. Even after rummaging through countless internet sites and guidebooks planning for my trip to the Black Hills the peak had never jumped out at me as a place to hike. Imagine my pleasure, then, as I sat amongst the summit rocks, the late day sun shining down on me whilst I absorbed the surrounding panorama recalling how just an hour earlier I had stumbled upon this peak by chance.

After a short stop at nearby Sylvan Lake the intention was to pick a random spot along the road and do some climbing. Just east of the lake we pulled into a promising parking area. While waiting for the toilets to free up I noticed a trail sign at one end of the lot and went over to read it. 'Little Devils Tower' it read and, as a hiker by trade, not a climber, my mind started to do the math and I decided I would have plenty of time to make a quick run to the top while the others climbed. It was one of the best on-the-fly decisions I've ever made...

Photo Journal...

Little Devils Tower TrailheadTrailhead

The simple sign that perked my curiosity...I'm a sucker for any trail self-described as "Rugged Terrain-High Degree of Difficulty"...

Rocky TerrainRock n' Pine

The first half mile or so passed through areas of Ponderosa Pines scattered amongst high rock cliffs and pinnacles so common in these parts...there weren't near as many trees as there used to be, however...

Pine Beetle War Zone

In the short day and a half we had been in the Black Hills we had been staggered by the amount of man-made destruction that had been wrought on the local Ponderosa Pine population. It wasn't until just prior to this hike that I learned it had to do with the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), a native to these parts whose population in recent years has exploded and wrought havoc on the forests. The State of South Dakota's drastic plan is to simply eradicate huge swaths of infested forest, while the larvae overwinter beneath the bark, providing the visitor with common trailside views like this. Mind you, I'm not condemning the state (my own has had to take similar measures against the Emerald Ash Borer) it just hurts my eyes as well as my soul to see this...

Mule DeerMule Deer

About a half mile in we rounded a corner and almost literally ran into this group of Mule Deer. They didn't seem to bothered by us, they retreated a couple hundred feet, stopped, let me take my pictures, and quietly munched away as we passed by...

First Views...The Ridge

After a short but rather steep climb the second half mile the trail gains the top of the ridge providing some nice views through the trees of the surrounding terrain...

Little Devils Summit SpurSummit Spur

About a mile in, atop the ridge, the half mile spur trail to the summit breaks left from the main trail. The summit of Little Devils Tower rose above the trees, but we didn't know it yet at this point...

Summit Spur Panorama

Shortly after turning on to the summit spur a nearby rock outcrop finally gave us a taste of what we were in for above. The sheer cliffs dropping into the narrow valley between us and Harney Peak gave this vantage point the feeling that one was standing on a much bigger mountain...

The Going Gets Steep...Steep Spur

The spur trail started out moderate enough but ever so gradually the grade increased until I found myself doing a little huffing and puffing...

The Rocks Close In...Getting Closer

AS the summit gets closer, so do the surrounding rocks. The trail all but ends a couple hundred yards ahead of this shot in a narrow and (during our visit) deeply snowpacked ravine that drops precipitously away to the north. The 'trail' was all but a scramble from that point...

Spires Behind...The Crack

A narrow cleft in the rocks marks the summit spurs route to the summit rocks. It's only about a hundred foot scramble but it's still quite fun...

The Crack Panorama

The Cathedral Spires jagged profile was constant cause to keep looking over our shoulder as we topped out above the crack that marks the crux of the climb to the summit of Little Devils Tower...

The Summit View South

As this was my first summit in the Black Hills I was blown away by the view that greeted me at the summit...even more so, perhaps, than Harney Peak the following day. The views north and south are polar opposites. To the north Harney Peak dominates the skyline while the lower terrain to the south allows for sweeping, long distance views...

Cathedral SpiresCathedral Spires

As I mentioned earlier it was hard to prevent your gaze from repeatedly drifting back to the Cathedral Spires. After climbing Little Devils Tower and next Harney, I longed to explore them in person but, alas, time was not on my side and I'll have to save it for a return trip...

Harney Peak

Harney PeakHarney Peak
Harney Summit TowerHarney Tower

It was also hard to ignore Harney Peak, engulfing the skyline to the north and rising a thousand feet, still, over our heads. It was amusing to watch people clamoring over Harney's rocks like so many made me appreciate the fact that, with the exception of my partners, I had this peak all to myself ...

Little Devils Tower SummitFarewell Little Devil

After a half hour or so of soaking up the late afternoon sun atop the Tower we had to begrudgingly concede that it was time to head down. Our only conciliation was that we would be out exploring even higher places tomorrow...

Little Devils Summit AccessDescending

The well-worn granite atop Little Devils Tower was deceptively slick, and with views like this surrounding you it's a bit more difficult to concentrate on your they say, the descent is always the more dangerous...

Cathedral SpiresFinal Views

As if to tease us into returning to the top the sun decided to fully break out just as we dropped back into the trees. I have to admit I had more than a passing thought of returning but knew it wouldn't last. The glow of the late day sun on the Spires was enough...what a day...


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Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - May 24, 2012 10:46 pm - Voted 10/10

This is great

I want to visit this little peak in just a few days and your TR was incredibly informative. Thanks for sharing! -Sarah

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Little Devils Tower

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