Crow Peak – where the plains and hills collide

Crow Peak 1

By Robin EH. Bagley

If you’re road-tripping along Interstate 90 in the Great Plains, it’s hard to miss the Black Hills, an island of tree-covered mountains in the middle of an ocean of prairie. The Black Hills, or Paha Sapa to the native peoples of the Northern Plains, are entirely unexpected but offer fantastic hiking and camping opportunities. Plan a stop in Spearfish, South Dakota to hike Crow Peak in the Black Hills National Forest. Crow Peak dominates the landscape west of Spearfish, its height makes the summit one of the best vantage points in the area and well worth the climb. Another bonus is that the trailhead is only about seven miles outside of Spearfish, so you can make the hike and cool off in town with a local microbrew.

The trailhead starts at an elevation of 4,200 feet, and the summit rises to 5,760 feet. Math doesn’t lie. You’ll climb over 1,500 feet in the 3.2 mile hike up, so be prepared to take breaks when you need to and bring plenty of water because a climb like that is a great workout. Who needs the gym? It’s the ultimate stair climber with fresher air and better views. The US Forest Service rates this trail “difficult,” and that’s true for the ascent. However, what goes up must come down, and the 3.2 miles back is all downhill.

Plan to spend some time at the top enjoying the views. Looking west you can see into Wyoming, and to the east you can see Mato Paha (Bear Butte). Watch for swallowtail butterflies at the top especially if any native plants are blooming. You’ll also want to watch out for snakes, which are always possible in the Black Hills. Rattlesnakes are possible, as are non-venomous bull snakes, but it can be difficult to tell the difference, so be watchful and keep your distance if you do see one.

The Black Hills are notorious for fast-brewing thunderstorms May through August, so hike early in the day in order to be off the peak before afternoon storms hit. If a storm brews up while you’re on the trail, turn around and head back down. Speaking from experience, Crow Peak gives hikers an excellent view of lightning storms, perhaps too close for comfort.

 

After a hot hike, celebrate with a cold beer from Spearfish’s local microbreweries, Crow Peak Brewing and Spearfish Brewing Company. And if you’re looking for some local fare, stop into Killian’s Food & Drink for the best fries west of the Missouri River.

Crow Peak’s trailhead is easily accessible from Spearfish. Just head seven miles west of Spearfish on Higgins Gulch Road and watch for the sign and parking area. Maps are usually available at the trailhead, but you can pick them up at many area visitor centers or download them from www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/blackhills/recreation. There are a number of Forest Service campgrounds in the area as well, check out www.fs.usda.gov/activity/blackhills/recreation/camping-cabins and look for the Northern Hills category.

 

 

Multiple Contributor

Robin EH. Bagley is a freelance writer and social media manager who spent most of her years in South Dakota, from the prairies to the granite spires near Custer. She loves to camp, hike, and paddle but is a reluctant mountain biker. She has recently relocated to Sheridan, WY near the Bighorn Mountains and is getting accustomed to hiking in bear and moose country as opposed to buffalo country. If you meet her on the trail, you can hit her up for a granola bar or Band-Aid.

40 thoughts on “Crow Peak – where the plains and hills collide

  • June 24, 2018 at 3:35 am
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    I like it because it has flowers along the way! My problem though is that my back no longer allows me to trek like this. huhuhu Gotta exercise to strengthen the back and enjoy nature once again.

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  • June 18, 2018 at 5:24 pm
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    I mean, the views just don’t get any better than that am I right! A day spent out here in the wilderness and at one with mother nature, is just pure bliss.

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  • June 18, 2018 at 1:33 pm
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    Oh wow how utterly beautiful! Camping for Women always posts the most gorgeous places, a hike there would be perfect!

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  • June 18, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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    I miss hiking and trekking so much! But it’s hard to do it with a toddler! I would love to go there, so jealous of you!

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  • June 18, 2018 at 10:13 am
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    What gorgeous views – I love a beauty spot after a long hike, especially if you enjoy it with a cold drink 😉

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    • June 20, 2018 at 1:47 am
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      A cold drink never hurts! 🙂

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  • June 18, 2018 at 9:01 am
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    What a beautiful place to hike. Those views are worth every step up 🙂 I am not sure whether I would be able to climb this high, but for sure I would try! Hope you had a great time!

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  • June 18, 2018 at 3:45 am
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    I have yet to visit this part of the country, so I have never been to North Dakota or seen the Black Hills. From the pictures, It looks like and absolutely beautiful area to hike. If I’m ever in the area, I’ll definitely check it out.

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  • June 17, 2018 at 4:02 pm
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    I love hiking too but never climbed over 1000 feet. You are awesome. Loved reading this post.

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  • June 17, 2018 at 4:12 am
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    That is a good hike with rewards of good scenic views. I liked the unusual name too.
    Water is my best companion during hikes.

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  • June 17, 2018 at 1:28 am
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    What a beautiful hike this is, we as a family love hiking a lot for the love of pure nature all around us. But snakes..OMG, I really fear them. We have faced small bugs, leeches, many times but not snakes yet.

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  • June 16, 2018 at 5:21 pm
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    Yes, we’re actually planning to go hiking and camping at Black Hills next week. Will be extra careful re: snakes and will bring plenty of water. Thank you for the tips.

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    • June 20, 2018 at 1:48 am
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      Have a great trip! June is prime thunderstorm season, so be prepared for those afternoon storms.

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  • June 16, 2018 at 5:17 pm
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    Having a cold beer is a great idea. We usually do this after every hike.

    Will find time to go to Spearfish. Glad to know there are a lot of Forest Service campgrounds in the area.

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  • June 16, 2018 at 1:50 pm
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    Wow this is a truly beautiful hike!!! The views are absolutely fabulous!!!

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  • June 16, 2018 at 12:33 pm
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    That’s a beautiful place but not as beautiful as my place – Kashmir. These kinda places can really help people to get fresh out of their busy routine, get together, hike and have fun. You’ve given nice tips for people who ever plan to visit this tree-covered mountain.

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    • June 20, 2018 at 1:49 am
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      Oh my, Kashmir. Would love to visit there someday!

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  • June 16, 2018 at 9:47 am
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    It’s been a while since I went hiking. This looks like a great place to visit. I’ll add it on my map of summer destinations. 🙂

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  • June 16, 2018 at 7:25 am
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    Oh my, that is such a beautiful view. I would so take that long hike up to the pike just to see that gorgeous view.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 9:51 pm
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    I’d really love to visit Dakota. These pictures look gorgeous and the beer sounds nice too!

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:29 am
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      The Black Hills really are beautiful, and the beer doesn’t hurt. 🙂 Thanks!

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  • June 15, 2018 at 9:38 pm
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    This is a good hiking place. I used to love camping and trekking, and I miss doing them. A cold beer is definitely a must after a long tiring hike.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 7:09 pm
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    This just looks like an amazing paradise for any hiker!

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  • June 15, 2018 at 5:39 pm
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    I’m not a serial hiker but I would definitely make the climb for that view! It’s gorgeous and so is the trail so despite the hard work it would be an enjoyable experience 🙂 And of course the bonus comes from celebrating the completion of this achievement with a cold brew! Perfection!

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  • June 15, 2018 at 5:33 pm
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    This looks great! Would love to visit this place and commune with nature. Hopefully sooner or later.

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:30 am
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      Thanks! The Hills will be there whenever you get the chance. Hope you get to visit soon.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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    If I ever go here to hike, I’ll definitely take my time and go early so I can stop and enjoy the different sights that the trail has to offer. It’s so beautiful!

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:31 am
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      It really is a beautiful hike, definitely worth taking your time & enjoying it.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 3:40 pm
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    I wish I could travel. All
    These cool and tranquil places to delve into. Would be great to lounge around watching those swallowtail butterflies ?.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 2:15 pm
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    I am loving the picture of the flowers! The views are amazing. 1500 feet in 3 miles is not a walk in the park for sure :). Sipping water is something I always do on hikes. It is better than drinking a lot of water at one go.

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:32 am
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      Thanks! The flowers are beautiful, usually May – June is best for flowers in this area.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 12:40 pm
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    Wow. This looks like a great place. I always love hiking. It’s so much better than any other physical exercise. You can get one on one with nature. The view of the lightening storms sounds like icing on the cake.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 10:19 am
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    What a pretty hike and view too! I totally take your word when you say to take breaks when doing this hike; it really sounds like a challenge! Though it’s definitely much better than the gym, and I would spend a while just taking in that scenery at the top.

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:34 am
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      This beats the gym any day of the week, that’s for sure.

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  • June 15, 2018 at 5:40 am
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    Beautiful Trail! And gorgeous scenery. I grew up in the Northwest, but have never ventured over to the Dakotas. Perhaps one day I will make it.

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:35 am
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      The Northwest is beautiful too. So many good trails out there. I don’t get there often, but would like to.

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  • June 14, 2018 at 8:26 pm
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    Such a nice hike! Climbing over 1,500 feet in the 3.2-mile hike is definitely a challenge, but the view is worth it. Thanks for the advice on watching out for snakes. Celebrating with a cold beer after the hike is definitely an awesome idea after that hike.

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    • June 16, 2018 at 2:35 am
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      Thanks! And having a cold beer always seems like a good idea to me after a long hike. 🙂

      Reply

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