Heart of the Black Hills, Part 1: Black Elk Peak’s North Side

I decided to have a 3-4 hour look at the northern, less-traveled slope of South Dakota’s highest peak, on the bright and sunny Saturday afternoon, July 20.  There’s a Horse Camp nearby, but I found myself the only person on the trail, which is clear as far as a small waterfall.  This was a perfect place for me to turn around, after three hours on the trail.

Here are some views of this wilder side of the Black Hills.  I credit a family of horsefolk for showing me Trail #9.


Limestone and granite abound here, as they do in the Southwest, as remnants of glacial movement and volcanic thrust.





A lone butterfly was resting in the ash-coloured soil, as I passed carefully by.


The fruits of the butterfly’s, and other pollinators’ labours, are much in evidence here.


Monster-faced rocks added to the legends of the Arapaho, Shoshone and Crow, as well as the Siouan nations who occupied this area in more modern times.


Greeting me, and anticipating the next day’s visit, were the spires of Black Elk Peak’s summit.


Some smaller spires were well-hidden by the forest.


Others very proudly thrust their chests out.




I arrived at the falls of South Fork, Spring Creek, as the five-thirty “click” signaled to me that it was time to head back.


Tomorrow, I would be full-on, along the south slope of this magnificent peak, and would reach the top.  In between, the more settled gems of Mount Rushmore, Custer and Crazy Horse Monument awaited.

13 thoughts on “Heart of the Black Hills, Part 1: Black Elk Peak’s North Side

  1. It’s a beautiful country, Gary — I’ve not been as far as North Dakota, but these are lovely photos! I think the eone thing I miss here in Southern California is the water — we don’t have the lovely streams and waterfalls so nearby.


    • It is actually South Dakota, though the North also has some lovely spots, despite the fracking going on. SoCal has many lovely places of its own, though it’s true that Big Bear and the Palm Springs tram offer the closest waterfalls.


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