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Monday, March 4, 2013

Sunday Gulch Trail and Tour of Custer State Park

August 24, 2011

After hiking to Harney Peak and Little Devil's Tower, M and I decided to drive to the main area of Custer State Park, south of where we were camping. The hills were barren due to a fire that occurred in 1988 and it was surprising to see that the land was still scarred from a fire that was almost as old as M and me. Without the forest, we were able to see red dirt peaking from under the grass carpeted hills along the wildlife loop. True to its name, we also saw antelope, goats, and donkeys. Following the loop, we then decided to drive to the top of Mount Coolidge to survey the area. 

Mount Coolidge is an active fire tower and at 6,023 ft., it gave us views of Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and even the Badlands! The road leading to the fire tower was a zig zagging, panic inducing thin strip of gravel climbing 500 ft with dizzying drop offs. The views from the top were well worth the quick drive and we left after snapping a few pictures. 

When we returned to our campsite near Sylvan Lake, we were quite restless and decided to go on a quick hike before eating dinner. Little did we know that our 2.8 mile Sunday Gulch hike would take us almost two hours to finish due to the strenuous rocky terrain and undulating forest trail. The trail descended from Sylvan Lake down to the creek bed and then looped back through forest before we came back to the lake. I would definitely recommend this trail if you are ever in Custer State Park. 

We hiked the left, light purple Sunday Gulch Loop Trail

Historic Needles Highway, Hwy 87 

Going from Sylvan Lake to south Custer State Park on Hwy 87, Needles Highway

Iconic needles on Needles Highway

Needles Highway tunnel

Wildlife Loop

Remnants of the 1988 fire

Remnants of 1988 fire

Goats on Wildlife Loop

Antelope on Wildlife Loop

People feeding donkeys on Wildlife Loop. Please DO NOT do this. 

This donkey almost broke the side mirror.

Donkeys blocking the road. 

Wildlife Loop

Wildlife Loop

Mount Coolidge

Road traveling up Mount Coolidge and views from the tower

Road traveling up Mount Coolidge and views from the tower

President Washingon's face on Mount Rushmore, middle top

Crazy Horse, top middle

Mount Coolidge fire tower

Tunnel going back to Sylvan Lake

Sunday Gulch Trail

From Sylvan Lake, we descended these steep steps

Sunday Gulch Trail

Sunday Gulch Trail

Creek crossing. I'm 5'4 so this gives some perspective on the area.

More steps on Sunday Gulch

M swinging down the double rails

Very fun hike

Looking back. The rails and steps end at the bottom of the creek.

Chopping down a tree with one fell swoop. The trail is now flat and follows the creek

Creek crossing


At the turning point of the loop, we ended up following power lines back to Sylvan Lake

Woods, granite, and power lines

Clearing we crossed

Climbing from creek bottom. We are back at higher elevation now.

Some deer as the sun was setting

Granite spires near Sylvan Lake 

Sylvan Lake

M and I back at Sylvan Lake

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