needles landscape

5 Breathtaking Hikes in Custer State Park

Custer State Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the state, with free-roaming buffalo, hidden caves, distant views from mountain tops, and babbling brooks surrounded by towering trees. Make sure to visit the five best hiking trails in the park—you don’t want to miss anything at Custer State Park!

Remember to wear shoes suitable for rugged terrain, and take warmer clothes, as it will be colder and windy on top of the peaks. The park has a herd of 1300 free-roaming buffalo that wander throughout the park. Keep an eye out for them and don’t approach, because they can attack with little or no provocation.

A week long visitor pass to the park is $20 per vehicle or $10 for motorcycles. An annual park pass is $30.



  1. Cathedral Spires
    1. This trail goes through odd granite spires, which are popular among rock climbers and through the Ponderosa Pine forests that are popular in the Black Hills. The route is 1.5 miles and is strenuous. It intersects with a path going to the famed Black Elk Peak, the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The unique rock spires are a must-see in the park!
  2. Sunday Gulch
    1. Near Sylvan Lake, the Sunday Gulch Trail is a three mile loop going over boulders and across streams – sometimes streams going over boulders! Don’t worry, there are handrails to guide hikers over the slippery sections. You’ll want to wear sturdy hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. While it is a strenuous path, the views of the waterfalls are worth it!
  3. Lover’s Leap
    1. Located across from the Peter Norbeck Education Center, this three mile loop goes up-hill for a while before evening out. The turnaround point at this trial is marked by a sign reading “Custer State Park is a place where one can still be an unworried and unregimented individual and wear any old clothes and sit on a log and get his sanity back again.” This trail has views of Cathedral Spires, Black Elk Peak, and Mount Coolidge. Take a minute to catch your breath and admire the views below before starting the trek back down. The trail crosses several serene streams which are known to attract buffalo.
  4. Little Devils Tower
    1. Little Devils Tower has fantastic views of Cathedral Spires, Black Elk Peak, and the sprawling Black Hills forests. The trail itself is a little over one mile and branches off from Trail #4 to Black Elk Peak. It requires some climbing over granite boulders and traversing steep, rocky inclines, but it is a rewarding hike for fit hikers!
  5. Prairie Trail
    1. While most of Custer State Park is forested, take a hike down the Prairie Trail to see the park’s amazing environment diversity! This three mile loop, and it is easy and level. The trail goes through a small creek and passes a variety of plants and wildlife. Don’t be surprised to see buffalo!