Black Elk Peak, formerly known as Harney Peak, is the highest point in South Dakota. At 7,242 feet, it is also the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains.
The hike to the top of Black Elk Peak starts at Sylvan Lake. From start of the trail, to mountain peak, is 3.5 miles (7 miles round trip). The mountain peak contains an old stone tower, which previously was used as a fire lookout.
Built in 1911, the fire lookout was decommissioned in 1967 when airplanes and helicopters became a more efficient way of monitoring forest fires.
At the base of the fire lookout lie the ashes of Valentine McGillycudd with a Lakota inscription that translates to “Holy White Man.” McGillycudd was a surgeon who served with the United States military in the western states. He’s known for trying to improve relations between Native Americans and the USA government.
Black Elk Peak is named in honor of a Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, whom was present at both the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre.