Sunday Gulch Trailhead - Hiking

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Summary

A quiet, overlooked trailhead that offers amazing views of the Black Hills. Come prepared for this 3 mile moderate to strenuous hike!

Written by

Chase Merfeld

Distance

3.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

26.8 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

The trail is moderate to strenuous in difficulty due the incline back up from the bottom of the trailhead as well as several obstacles and boulders to pass along the way.

Time To Complete

2 hours

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

The spring offers an extra challenge to hikers with the rainfall and added water obstacles.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Dogs are welcomes, but be prepared to carry them down some of the boulders at the beginning of the trail.

Fees Permits

Yes

A temporary pass for 1-7 days is $20 and an annual pass is $30.

Review

Intro

The Sunday Gulch trail is often overlooked by travelers due to the area's many attractions such as Sylvan Lake, Harney Peak, and the Needles Highway. The trailhead is hidden behind Sylvan Lake but there are signs marking the way. The views from the top are beautiful and the trail itself winds down into the trees and follows a small creek. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike the Sunday Gulch when visiting the Black Hills. 

What Makes It Great

There is very light traffic on the Sunday Gulch trailhead. The trail sits directly behind one of the most beautiful lakes in the Black Hills, Sylvan Lake, and also next to the most popular tourist trail, Harney Peak. 

From the parking lots to the trailhead is a small hike in itself but this gives everyone an opportunity to see the beauty that is Sylvan Lake. Once you find the start of the trailhead you are in for an adventure! The start of the trail has handrails to assist the descent. Not far into the trail, a section of boulders must be navigated.  During the rainy months of spring and summer the descent down may be wet and slick. 

Between the spruce forests and spacious views, the hike down into the gulch offers an array of scenery that captures the natural beauty of the area. 

Who is Going to Love It

If you are looking for a quiet hike that is moderate to strenuous then this is your trail. However, know your abilities before beginning this trail. The trail is fairly steep in some areas, especially on the climb back up. Strong hikers will have no problem negotiating the obstacles but less fit and less daring souls may find themselves a bit intimidated by the steep climbs and boulder fields. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

You can access the trail from either from Hills City or Custer. From Hill City, take HWY-385 for about 3 miles and turn left onto SD-87 for another 6 miles and turn left into Sylvan Lake. From Custer, take SD-89 for about 8 miles until you reach Sylvan Lake. 

There is a fee as you enter the park. A temporary pass is around $20 per vehicle and is good for 1-7 days throughout Custer State Park. An annual pass can be purchased for $30. 

As you enter the parking area don’t be alarmed at the site of many vehicles. Most of these vehicles are there to see Sylvan Lake and to hike Harney Peak. 

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Location

Custer State Park

43.726618, -103.451847

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