Rock climbing in the Black Hills is a perfect way for friends and families to add some adventure to their vacation. Get out, above the trees to enjoy a view from the top. The geological diversity of the Black Hills offers rock climbers of all abilities numerous unique cragging opportunities.
Modern Climbing in Black Hills dates back to 1937 when the famous Fritz Wiessner summited Devils Tower with at party of 3. Since then Devils Tower has been summited thousands of times and thousands of climbing routes have been established in Custer State Park, near Mount Rushmore, and in Spearfish Canyon.
Custer State Park Climbing
Known to climbers as the ‘Needles of South Dakota’, this area is a perfect place to enjoy your first day on the rock. There are also plenty of routes to test your mettle if you are an experienced climber. The beautiful granite spires thrust up out of the ground and provide exciting summits for climbers of all ages and abilities. The maze of rocks in this area has a long proud history of ascents by many of the world’s best climbers. Most recently the rocks of the area were featured in the movie ‘National Treasure II.’ You’ve got to come see it for yourself.
Rushmore Climbing Area
While attempting to climb on the faces of Mount Rushmore will get you arrested, you can enjoy the wild side of this National Monument, by getting off the beaten path and climbing the ‘other’ rocks located in the 1200+ acre park. The climbing there is known for its ease of access and a variety of great face climbing equipped with modern climbing protection. There is currently a guidebook available for the Mt. Rushmore climbing areas.
The huge volcanic colonnade monolith, protruding up out of the NE Wyoming plains has long stirred the imaginations of climbers from all over the world. Climbers love the continuous cracks and symmetric dihedrals formed by the jointing of the columns that make up the rock mass. Guide yourself or with the right instruction it’s entirely possible that you could climb to the summit with a day or 2 of training and a day for a summit attempt. Wouldn’t that be a great vacation story and photo! There are several guidebooks currently available for Devils Tower.
Sylvan Rocks Climbing School and Guides offers services for new and experienced climbers.
No matter if you just want to discover what the excitement of rock climbing is all about, or if you have been climbing for years, the Black Hills has a great adventure waiting for you!
If you like rock climbing in the Black Hills and Badlands, you’ll love a fresh challenge during the winter months when the granite spires are covered in snow, the waterfalls and vertical seeps freeze up and make for some great ice climbing.
Ice Climbing is gaining in popularity and the Black Hills is a great place to get started or polish your skills. There are many climbs that have easy access and no avalanche danger while offering challenges on vertical ice that grows from springs and waterfalls.
Spearfish Canyon is a great place to get out on the ice. Bridal Veil falls is a great place to warm up as it is the tallest of the bunch and is less then vertical most the time. Eleventh Hour Gulch is an awesome top rope site.
Hidden away in a ravine where sunlight is a rarity, ice climbing at Eleventh Hour Gulch begins early in the season and ends late. Enjoy the colorful rock walls in stark contrast to the frozen falls. It’s a short hike to get there, and worth the trip.
Closer to Spearfish you’ll find steep, free-standing columns of ice at Community Cave. The uphill hike is a real calf burner, and can have deep snow, so throw in the snowshoes. If things are formed up right, there is often enough ice for a full day of fun.
A one-hour hike from the trailhead to get to the frozen flows at Crow Peak west of Spearfish is worth the effort, according to those who have tried it. It takes lots of snow and runoff to create a challenging chunk of ice here, so check the conditions before you head out.
Honeybear near Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park often forms up into a fun little flow. If you are looking to really feel the air beneath your boots though, the Black Hills’ tallest ice climb is found on the backside of Harney Peak. A long uphill hike that gets you to the Harney Ice Flow. This ice flow lays within the Black Elk Wilderness area, so please make sure to fill out one of the free entrance passes near the trailhead.
Just like any other outdoor winter sport, you’ll want to dress appropriately. Layering works best. Ice climbing equipment is quite specialized. Along with climbing ropes and harnesses, you will need Crampons and Ice Tools (axes) and of course a good helmet and emergency kit.
Rushmore Mountain Sports in Spearfish, SD is a great place to buy ice climbing gear. The Black Hills Climbers coalition is a local organization that works on keeping trails and climbing routes open and clean. Many of the members are great area resources, so becoming a member is a good way to meet some new climbing friends.
There are currently no guiding services authorized to work guiding ice in the Black Hills. Remember, ice climbing is inherently dangerous, so please make sure you know what you are doing and are properly equipped before heading out for a great adventure.
Things to See & Do
Bridal Veil Falls is the easiest of the three waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon to locate as it can be seen from the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (US Hwy 14A).
Spearfish Falls was actually one of the most popular tourist stops in the northern Black Hills around the beginning of the 19th century when a Burlington Railroad line took passengers directly over it, parts of which can s
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway throngs with summertime pleasure drivers. Thousand-foot-high limestone palisades in shades of brown, pink and gray tower to the right and left of Highway 14A as it twists through the 19-mile gorge.
When you vacation in the northern Black Hills, you will be surrounded by an area synonymous with great stories of the gold rush and old west.
You will visit the haunts of such legendary figures as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, as well as many other locations in the gaming town of Deadwood, a National Historic Landmark. This region is rich with Black Hills history.
The Black Hills are full of monumental works of both man and nature, evident too in the world-class hiking, biking, motorized and non-motorized trail offerings one can find here. Whether hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATVing or snowmobiling, the uncrowded, natural surroundings of the Black Hills and Badlands are an outdoor mecca with over 450 miles spread across 75 different trails.