Sylvan Lake, Trail #4

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 43.86610°N / 103.5311°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hike
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Walk-up
Sign the Climber's Log


This trail leaves the Sylvan lake area in a more easterly fashion than Trail 9, to meet up with 2 other spur trails that heads off to Cathedral Spires and Little Devil's Tower. One can access the trailhead at the Sylvan Lake parking lot, or drive further up the Needles Hwy past the Sylvan Lake Campground. On the left there is a small parking lot and a trailhead marked: Little Devil's Tower, that connects with Trail 4. This shortens the hike by about a half mile round trip. There is a fee to get into Custer State Park, but its valid for a week.

The length from trailhead to summit is approximately 3.5 miles.

Route Description

The trail starts at about 6300 ft and is fairly flat and shaded for the first 3/4 mile. At this point one meets a spur trail that take you to Little Devil's Tower rock formation to the north. Immediatly after passing the spur trail, Trail 4 climbs a lil more rapidly up to about 6800 ft over the next half mile. For the next mile or so the trail levels off and you pass another spur trail for Cathedral Spires, which heads off to the south.
This is where this trail differs from Trail 9, as it has 2 or 3 great overlooks of Cathedral Spires and Picket Fence rock formations. Trail 9 is mostly shrouded in tree cover and offers less 'elevation' scenery.
Beyond this, you enter the Black Elk Wilderness area and you should fill out the registration card and drop the copy in the box, although at times, there aren't any cards available. Once you have gained the registration box, its only another 3/4 mile or so of switchbacks to the top, where you wind around some steps cut into granite and some metal gratings bridging a few gaps to gain the final hundred feet to the summit tower.
The tower is a good resting spot and the rocks to the WNW are fun to scramble around on with a small amount of exposure. Good hike for the canine friends as well!

Essential Gear

Lightweight hikers with medium lugs, although there are plenty of technical climbs in the area, Harney Peak does not require special gear.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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Alpinist - Apr 8, 2009 5:24 pm - Hasn't voted


Do you know the distance from the TH to the summit? This would be useful information to include on the route page...

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