Harney Peak, South Dakota (7,242 Feet)

Harney Peak, South Dakota (7,242 Feet)

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

July 26th, 2002, 5:32 pm #1

Post your trip reports about South Dakota's highest point.

Read about the summit:
http://americasroof.com/sd.shtml
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

August 14th, 2002, 4:47 am #2

Last edited by dipper on March 17th, 2004, 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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markv
markv

September 4th, 2003, 7:32 pm #3

Post your trip reports about South Dakota's highest point.

Read about the summit:
http://americasroof.com/sd.shtml
The Black Hills of South Dakota deserved more than the one day i had to spend there...i hope i get back there soon. I did all the scenic drives around Custer State Park, saw Crazy Horse from the road, (i'm not a miser ONLY when it comes to HP guidebooks, y'know) and scouted out a campsite. I think/hope i legally did dispersed camping. On route 244, about 5 miles west of the Horsethief Lake campground (sorry so vague), there is a dirt road that turns north. It has a cattle grate and a sign that says to close the gate if it's open. From my maps, it was NFS land, Black Elk Wilderness. Following that dirt road downhill, taking the left fork when it forks, almost immediately on the left there was a clearing that looked like it had been camped at before. There weren't any signs of a campfire, but it was just too perfect of a flat spot to be an accident. So i made some notes of how to find this spot again in the dark and then headed off to do Harney Peak before dark.

I parked at Sylvan Lake, but took the #4 Cathedral Spires trail instead on the way up to the peak, and then the #9 Sylvan Lake trail on the way down. I liked the footing and the rock formation scenery much better on the #4. It was a much quicker hike than i expected, and there were about 5 other people on top of the Harney Peak tower when i got there. HP #13! The round trip was less than 3 hours, but i was hurrying more than i like to, worried i would get stuck hiking in the dark. I missed the lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore, but saw them lit anyway. If you want to avoid the parking fee, park slightly west at the free lot for the "profile view" of Washington. It's about a half mile walk along the highway and on a little side trail to Rushmore.

The camping spot was just plain ideal. Dry, cool, and in the morning i climbed up some rather crumbly (but low enough to be safe) rocks that turned out to be petrified wood. Lo, and behold, from the top of these rocks was a perfect view of the top of Harney Peak...a view which i never really had from Sylvan Lake or either trail.
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Tim Townsend
Tim Townsend

January 13th, 2004, 5:06 am #4

Post your trip reports about South Dakota's highest point.

Read about the summit:
http://americasroof.com/sd.shtml
Roger's ND trip report notes there's a sign at Harney indicating it's the highest peak until you reach the Pyrenees. The Black Hills sure are a prominent range on a relief map. I recall being awed by similar claims about the Black Hills being the highest mountains east of the Rockies ever since our family did a Chevy Chase-style station wagon pilgrimage to Rushmore in the 1960's and me and my brothers tried squinting to see Chicago across the plains.

Roger notes the 'Harney is Highest' claim isn't really true, as Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic is higher and farther east than Harney.

Even within the U.S., however, there appear to be five peaks in the Big Bend area of Texas that are several hundred feet higher and about 10 miles east of Harney.

The Texas peaks are probably considered part of the Rockies. I guess that really means Harney shouldn't be considered the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rockies, since the Rockies seem to curve farther east than the Black Hills.

Of course, this opens up a can of worms about what really is the highest U.S. point east of the Rockies (or any other similar arbitrary reference). "East" of the Rockies, the easternmost U.S. point taller than Mt. Mitchell would seem to be on the spine of the Rockies themselves.

One is conveniently named Townsend Point (7,580'). I won't claim any family connection. This peak is likely named for "The Father of Big Bend" E.E. Townsend, buried near there in Dan Rather's favorite little town of Alpine, TX.

Crown Peak (7,010') is lower than Townsend Point but farther east and yet it is still higher than Mt. Mitchell, so maybe its east flank has the strongest claim to being the highest U.S. point east of the Rockies.

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Tim
Tim

January 13th, 2004, 5:15 am #5

I meant SD, not ND
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 12:16 am

April 20th, 2004, 10:13 am #7

Post your trip reports about South Dakota's highest point.

Read about the summit:
http://americasroof.com/sd.shtml
South Dakota

April 17-18, 2004

Hail to the Chiefs

For much of the past month, there had been the hope to make the journey to South Dakota in order to visit the Black hills and make the ascent of its highest elevation—Harney Peak. The weather forecast looked grim for the entire week before the trip, so I had all but written it off in favor of going to the Oklahoma Panhandle to try for Black Mesa. However, the night before the trip, I learned that there would at least be part of Saturday that would have desirable weather. The rest of the time would be uncertain. So, the risk was taken. Immediately after working the overnight shift, it was time to board the flight to Salt Lake City, change planes, and continue to Rapid City. As the plane descended into Rapid City, the forested Black Hills became visible. After renting the car, I had to make a choice between attempting Harney Peak late that afternoon or visiting Mt. Rushmore and hoping for continued good weather the next morning to make the hike. Since the climb would involve descending in the dark, the choice was made to visit Mt. Rushmore. The monument was a little smaller than expected, yet it was still a stunning place to visit. The 8$ parking fee was a little stiff, however it was the only way to get out of the car and clearly view the monument. The weather was still good at this point, so I took the obligatory photos and then drove to a viewpoint where the side profile of George Washington’s face could be seen. The road then led further into the scenic Black Hills. At one point, there was a quick glimpse of Harney Peak itself. The summit is recognizable due to the viewing tower on top. Soon, I entered Custer State Park and arrived at Sylvan Lake. This area contained the trailhead that would lead to Harney Peak. The lake was very scenic, because it had rock formations all around its perimeter. Since there would not be enough time to begin the hike, it was time to find a campsite for the night. The Sylvan Lake campground was not yet open for the season, so I drove south towards Custer. Just outside of town, there was a hosted campground available for a mix of RV’s and tents. After setting up the tent, it was time to drive to Custer to get something to eat. In town, there was a sign indicating that the Crazy Horse Memorial was only 6 miles away. So, I drove to it and took a look at it before it got dark. The size of the monument was impressive. This is and has been under construction for many years. No doubt, it will be an incredible work of art once it is completed. Back in town, dinner consisted of a Subway sandwich. Then, it was time to retire to the campground for the remainder of the night. It rained a little bit and later, I woke up and decided to see if it was still overcast. There were a lot of stars out, but flashed of lighting also lit up the sky from somewhere not too far away. I hoped that when morning came, there would be decent weather to make an early attempt of the climb.

April 18, 2004

Solitude and Grandeur

A little after 5AM, it was time to get up and clear the campground and take the tent down. There was no sign of rain, so the daypack was loaded and I readied myself for an early start designed to beat the bad weather that was forecasted for the region. Twilight was beginning as the car approached Sylvan Lake. There was an unmanned registration booth where one could pay for the parking permit and insert the fee in an envelope that would be stuck in a lockbox. At the trailhead, there was not another car or soul in sight. It was not light enough to begin the hike without having to wear the headlamp. So, I set off for the 6 mile trip that would take approximately 4 hours. Immediately, the trail led into a pine forest. The hike was generally not that steep at all, especially for the first couple of miles. An overlook appeared where the sun was starting to rise to reveal the majesty of the rock formations of this area. In the distance was the tower on top of Harney Peak itself. The trail again led into forest cover before revealing some more rock formations nearby. One of them was referred to as “Little Devils Tower”. This likely resembled the more famous one in nearby Wyoming. There were some rock needles interspersed along the way. The trail was very rocky in places, with granite, quartz, mica, and other minerals all over the ground. There were also lots of pine cones. The climb steepened somewhat and led to another lookout to where I could see that some considerable elevation had been gained. Higher up, another trail joined this one. There was then an area that had a place for horse riders to dismount and tie up their horses. Immediately after this, steps carved out of the rock could be seen. There was a small tunnel as well as a catwalk. I had read about the steps that made up the final part of the climb. Was I about to summit Harney Peak? The answer was yes, for there stood the summit tower directly in front of me. The peak was solid rock, so there were very few trees. This allowed views to be taken in all over the Black Hills region. It was certainly the most scenic highpoint visited yet. The rock formations were stunning. It was easy to tell that this was the top of South Dakota. The wind came in enough to make me want to keep moving and explore the summit. I looked at the tower and then walked to a nearby outcrop where the benchmark could be found. A small body of water with a little dam was also near the summit. I scrambled to the highest part of the rock at the base of the tower. This was the true highpoint. After a long look at the surroundings, I began to descend back to Sylvan Lake. During the entire hike, I never saw anyone else except for one time. That was on the return journey at the first overlook area near the beginning. Hopefully, the guy there would make it up before the weather turned on him. Already, dark clouds were forming overhead. The early start had paid off as I reached the trailhead a little before 10AM. Now was the time to drive back to Rapid City and try to catch an earlier flight out to avoid thunderstorm delays later in the day. After all, a misconnect would mean spending the night in Salt Lake City. The drive back involved descending down the very scenic Needles Highway. It had some great views as well as some interesting tunnels that a car could barely fit through (only one car could go in at a time from either direction). It would not be a good place to be in the busy summer season. Some wildlife could be seen. A mule deer was crossing the road around one corner. There were also some mountain goats, and finally some buffalo could be seen. Soon, I was back at the Rapid City airport where I did make it out earlier to avoid the weather. South Dakota’s Black Hills are certainly a great opportunity for seeing some stunning sights. It was nice to return to the outdoors. All of this makes me look forward to planning trips to the Rockies later in the summer.

-END-
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Joined: January 23rd, 2004, 4:53 pm

April 22nd, 2004, 3:10 pm #8

There is a section of free remote parking but it was gated off. They said it was closed because of "wartime security."

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Joined: January 22nd, 2004, 8:36 pm

April 29th, 2004, 9:18 pm #9

Roger's ND trip report notes there's a sign at Harney indicating it's the highest peak until you reach the Pyrenees. The Black Hills sure are a prominent range on a relief map. I recall being awed by similar claims about the Black Hills being the highest mountains east of the Rockies ever since our family did a Chevy Chase-style station wagon pilgrimage to Rushmore in the 1960's and me and my brothers tried squinting to see Chicago across the plains.

Roger notes the 'Harney is Highest' claim isn't really true, as Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic is higher and farther east than Harney.

Even within the U.S., however, there appear to be five peaks in the Big Bend area of Texas that are several hundred feet higher and about 10 miles east of Harney.

The Texas peaks are probably considered part of the Rockies. I guess that really means Harney shouldn't be considered the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rockies, since the Rockies seem to curve farther east than the Black Hills.

Of course, this opens up a can of worms about what really is the highest U.S. point east of the Rockies (or any other similar arbitrary reference). "East" of the Rockies, the easternmost U.S. point taller than Mt. Mitchell would seem to be on the spine of the Rockies themselves.

One is conveniently named Townsend Point (7,580'). I won't claim any family connection. This peak is likely named for "The Father of Big Bend" E.E. Townsend, buried near there in Dan Rather's favorite little town of Alpine, TX.

Crown Peak (7,010') is lower than Townsend Point but farther east and yet it is still higher than Mt. Mitchell, so maybe its east flank has the strongest claim to being the highest U.S. point east of the Rockies.
Tim,

The Crown Mountain (N 29° 15' 36", W 103° 15' 33") that you're referring to is 7,010' high as you say. However! There is an unnamed point at about 7,140' just to the east-southeast (N 29° 15' 23", W 103° 14' 56") that edges it out for the title of the easternmost peak in Texas over 7000'. It is also the eastenmost peak over 2000m (6,562'), making it the easternmost summit higher than Mt. Mitchell. Also note that Point 7,140' has a prominence of 720', whereas Crown Mountain only has a prominence of 470'. This peak is also tied for the 8th highest unnamed summit in Texas (following the "Colorado-Rule" which requires 300-ft of prominence to define a summit).

Cheers!

Dan

(a.k.a. Guru-of-Useless-TX-Mountain-Knowledge)
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Joined: March 1st, 2004, 12:02 am

November 5th, 2004, 9:45 pm #10

Post your trip reports about South Dakota's highest point.

Read about the summit:
http://americasroof.com/sd.shtml
I climbed Harney Peak, the Highpoint of South Dakota at 7242 feet, on Sunday, August 1st, 2004. It was my 26th state highpoint.

I left the Ace Motel, in Belle Fourche, SD, not too early on Sunday morning. It was one of the cleanest and nicest inexpensive motels I have ever stayed at and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality, inexpensive motel in the Black Hills area, especially on the drive to or from White Butte, ND. (See my North Dakota trip report for directions). I arrived at Custer State Park a little after Noon. I paid my $5.00 entrance fee and proceeded to the Sylvan Lake parking area. It was a very crowded Sunday afternoon and the parking area was full. I drove around several times before finding a parking place that I felt comfortable leaving my car unattended in for several hours. I was on my way home from a 6-week trip, to and from the Konvention in Washington, and my car was loaded with gear. I really didn’t have much to choose from so I parked where I could.

I had noticed a group of hikers near a trailhead at the western part of the parking area, which is south of Sylvan Lake. Without rechecking the Winger’s or Holmes’ guidebooks, or the trail map that was in the guide pamphlet that I received when I entered the park, I assumed that the trailhead I saw must be the correct one to Harney Peak. It turned out that it was A trailhead but not THE trailhead to Harney Peak. I started my hike at 1:00PM. It was a hot and sunny day. I wound up hiking in a westerly, then a southerly, direction for a while before heading back east and ultimately winding up on the #4 trail which I followed to where it intersects with the #9 trail. I continued on trail #9 to the summit of Harney Peak. I encountered quite a few people during my hike but the trails were not overly crowded. I enjoyed the hike very much. The various rock formations were interesting and the views were spectacular, especially from the summit. I spent about 30 minutes at the summit exploring the tower and surrounding area before heading back down. I followed trail #9 back to Sylvan Lake. I think trail #4 had better views and more fascinating rock formations. I arrived back at my car at 4:30PM for a 3 ½ hour roundtrip hiking time, even though my round about way of finding trail #4 added at least an extra mile or two to my total hiking distance. However since it was such a beautiful day for a hike I’m kind of glad that I took the extra scenic route.

It turned out that my car was parked about as close to the trailhead for trail #9 as I could’ve gotten. I probably would have seen it if I would have taken my time and looked around more closely. That will teach me to check the trail maps and guidebooks before starting out. Looking at my compass as I began my hike might have been a good idea also.
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