why we like it: This is your chance to hike a volcano. Don’t worry it’s not active. Technically, Bear Butte is a geological formation made from intrusions of igneous rock that formed millions of years ago.
Bear Butte is a sacred place for the Lakota and Cheyenne American Indians. Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain” is the Lakota name given to Bear Butte State Park. Lakota and Cheyenne will come to Bear Butte to offer prayers. You will see them in the form of prayer flags. Some times, an offering of tobacco leaves will be wrapped in the prayer flags. Please be respectful and do not disturb the prayer flags.
This is a more strenuous hike. If you are hiking with kids, make sure you take breaks (see other tips for hiking with kids). Even if you don’t make it to the top, it is still a worthwhile venture. But if you do reach the 4,426 summit, you can view four states!
Alkali Creek Trail offers views of Bear Butte without having to scale it.
location: Bear Butte State Park is located 6 miles northeast of Sturgis off SD Hwy 79.
hours: Bear Butte is open year round, sun up to sun down.
cost: Admission is $6 per vehicle or $30 for an annual State Park Pass. Participants in religious activities are exempt.
what the locals know: This is a hike to avoid during the annual Sturgis Bike Rally. But if you’re ready to brave the crowds, the Sturgis Bike Rally offers some fun for kids too during the day.
before you go:
- Bear Butte is very exposed because of fire activity. Make sure you dress in cool clothing with hats and sunblock for protection if hiking in the summer. There has been a recent effort to plant more trees on the face of Bear Butte.
- Don’t miss the museum in the visitor center. The history is incredible!