With fall temperatures moving in, it’s the perfect time to lace up your hiking boots, grab a light jacket, and hit the trails! This is the time of year to take advantage of the cool breezes and colorful surroundings on an unforgettable fall hike. While it’s beautiful during every season, I personally love to trek to the top of Bear Butte in the fall.
This sacred landmark protrudes out of the barren landscape near Sturgis and provides an invigorating 3.5-mile round-trip hike that rises approximately 1000 feet in elevation.
The hike itself is moderate and very feasible for all athletic abilities. It offers ample resting areas along the way for those interested in soaking up the views. It’s best to allow 2-3 hours to complete the hike from beginning to end. Do note, no pets are allowed on the trail and off-trail hiking, exploring, or rock climbing are not permitted.
Along your way, you’ll notice dozens of Native American prayer cloths adorning many of the trees and bushes beside the path. Please be respectful and do not disrupt them.
As you make your way to the summit, you’ll find that switchbacks are used in many places throughout the trail. These are used to help prevent erosion and to make your hike easier, so make a conscious effort to stay on the trail at all times.
Throughout the hike, you may spot some of the plants, birds and animals that inhabit Bear Butte. For birds, you may see bald eagles, golden eagles, wild turkeys, turkey vultures, black-billed magpies, and red-tailed hawks. Animals of the mountain include porcupines, yellow-bellied marmots, blue racer snakes, raccoons, rattlesnakes, bison, and mule deer. Also keep an eye out for poison ivy along the trail.
When you arrive at the top, you’ll have the opportunity to spot several visible landmarks on a clear day, including Fort Meade, Sturgis, Bear Butte Lake, Harney Peak, Custer Peak, Terry Peak and Castle Rock. Because of its natural protrusion from the plains surrounding the base, you’ll likely encounter some gusty winds as you reach the summit.
On your decent, use caution and be sure footed when hiking down areas with loose rock. Retrace the hike along the summit trail to find your way back to the parking lot.