Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 43.74490°N / 103.4816°W
Additional Information County: Custer
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 6023 ft / 1836 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Views from summit
Views from summit

Located within Custer State Park, Mount Coolidge is perhaps best know for the fire tower that sits upon the summit. Built in 1937-9 by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), the fire tower is still staffed from approximately mid-May to mid-October every year.

Mount Coolidge has suffered something of an identity crisis over the years. Originally called Sheep Mountain, the peak was renamed Lookout Mountain in 1923 only to be renamed again in 1927 to Mount Coolidge. Now, however, this mountain even has its own namesake USGS quad.

From the summit, the visitor can enjoy fantastic views of the surrounding Black Hills, including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the famous Needles and even Elsworth Airforce Base. It is said on a clear day, the Badlands can be viewed approximately 60 miles eastward. At the summit, informational kiosks tell about the 1988 Galena Fire that scorched 17,000 acres of the park.

Custer State Park is known for its population of a keystone species of this region, the American Bison. (Seriously, folks, admire these animals from a great distance!) According to National Geographic, this heaviest of North American land mammals can rise to 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) tall at the shoulder and weigh in excess of 1 ton (971 kg). Best yet, they sport pointed horns and can run at speeds of up to 40 mph (65 kph).

Rank: 53rd highest peak in South Dakotaka
Prominence: 683 feet
USGS Quad: Mount Coolidge
Planning Map: Trails Illustrated #238 Black Hills South

Rank & Prominence: Lists of John

Summit fire tower and information about 1988 Galena Fire
About the Galena Fire
Summit Tower
Galena Fire

Summit Views

For a short hiking investment, this peak offers great views
More summit viewsSummit Views
More summit viewsSummit Views
More summit viewsSummit Views
Summit ViewsSummit Views
Summit ViewsSummit Views

Getting There

Street Sign
Mount Coolidge Road sign
Beginning of the walk
Beginning of the walk

Mount Coolidge is located 3 miles south of US Highway 16A along SD Highway 87. From here, visitors can drive 1.2 miles up the road to the lookout tower or park at the base of the road and stroll up. I will post a simple walk-up route page shortly.

Route Description

Mount Coolidge Road MapRoute to the top of Mount Coolidge via the road.31 May 2012

Roundtrip Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Time:About 1 hr
YDS Class: 1
Mount Coolidge SummitMt Coolidge summit 
Lower on the routeLower on the road 
Almost to the topAlmost to the top
Mount Coolidge RoadLooking down on road




Red Tape

Mount Coolidge is located within Custer State Park of South Dakota. Per the state park:
•If the gate at the base of the mountain is open, visitors may proceed to the top.
•The road leading to Mount Coolidge is generally open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day into late September.

Bison are a common sight in the valleys below Mount Coolidge


Old snag
Old snag
Nearing the summit
Nearing the summit

Elk Mountain Campground | National Park Service
•$12/night high season; $6/night low season
•First come, first served
•Running water and flush toilets (high season)
•Elevation 4,923 feet

Blue Bell Campground | US Forest Service
•$18/night (standard) or $22/night (electric hookup)
•35 sites
•Running water and showers
•Elevation 4,165 feet

Weather & Seasons

Mount Coolidge Historic Fire Tower
Mount Coolidge Historic Fire Tower | panhandletrails