Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain” is the Lakota name given to Bear Butte State Park. This geological formation is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. From the 4,426 foot summit, you can view four states.
The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies. Artifacts dating back 10,000 years have been found near Bear Butte. In more recent times, however, the Cheyenne and Lakota people have maintained a spiritual tie to this mountain. Notable leaders including Red Cloud, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull have all visited Bear Butte. These visits culminated with an 1857 gathering of many Indian nations to discuss the advancement of white settlers into the Black Hills. George A. Custer, who led an expedition of 1,000 men into the region, camped near the mountain. Custer verified the rumors of gold in the Black Hills. Bear Butte then served as a landmark that helped guide the rush of invading prospectors and settlers into the region.
Visiting Bear Butte
Bear Butte is considered to be a sacred mountain to many American Indians as it is seen as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer. Visitors may see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Guests are asked to respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed. Visitors are also asked to not photograph prayer offerings. Please stay on the trail and respect those who are participating in religious activities.
At Bear Butte State Park warm days and cool nights are common in the summer, but July and August are typically hot. Moderate temperatures usually prevail in the winter months with some below zero temperatures. Afternoon thunderstorms in the summer may bring lightning, hail, strong winds and heavy rains. Snow may fall as early as September and may last until mid-May.
Horseback riding is allowed west of Hwy. 79 only. Riders can use the Centennial Trail west of the horse camp. The Summit Trail is too narrow to safely accommodate hikers and pets. Pets may be taken across Hwy. 79 to the horse camp area and are allowed to be exercised while on a leash.
Please remember that bison are dangerous, so please give them plenty of space. While hiking, biking or horseback riding at Bear Butte State Park visitors should be aware of prairie rattlesnakes, ticks and poison ivy.
Bear Butte State Park is located 6 miles northeast of Sturgis off SD Hwy. 79.