The Remarkable Scramble to Little Devil’s Tower

Little Devil’s Tower was one of our favorite hiking destinations when we visited Custer State Park in South Dakota. On our second day in the park, we met a local couple who strongly suggested we climb the rock tower. They were very knowledgeable about the park generally and convinced us we should add the hike to our “must-do” list.

Van Life Tip: When visiting an area, talk to locals. They always know the best places to go. No matter how much research a traveler does on-line, the best recommendations for awesome hikes (and meals) often come from those who live there.

The arrow points to Little Devil’s Tower. This photo was taken from the fire lookout tower on Black Elk Peak.

We decided to combine our hike to Little Devil’s Tower from another path called Cathedral Trail. This was a good plan for us but there is more than one way to access the granite tower. The most popular approach is from the Black Elk Peak Trail.

A day earlier, Gail and I hiked to Black Elk Peak and I took the picture above. From that vantage point and looking through binoculars, we could see people standing on Little Devil’s Tower. This was confirmation the couple we met earlier knew what they were talking about. Standing on top of that spectacular summit with 360-degree views was not something we wanted to miss.

Instantly, we knew what our next hiking destination was going to be.

Our Day at Little Devil’s Tower

Arriving at the base of Little Devil’s Tower, we started to scramble over huge boulders towards the top. From there, we only had about a quarter mile to the summit. Excitement and anticipation motivated our feet to keep moving. In short order, the dirt trail to the top began to fade to solid granite. The trail was momentarily confusing and we lost our way. Suddenly, we noticed painted blue markers on the rocks and the path to the summit became obvious again.

We scrambled up with confidence.

Once on the summit, we first noticed the extraordinary views in every direction. The second thing that got our attention was the wind.

It was quite blustery up there!

With one hand on my camera and the other hand holding my hat on my head, I scanned the valley in every direction and snapped some quick pictures. A smile came to my face when I noticed the tallest peak in Custer State Park and realized what I was looking at. It was the fire tower that Gail and I had visited the prior day.

From Little Devil’s Tower, we could see the fire tower (at the very top of the mountain) we visited a day earlier.

Had it not been for the wind, we might have sat on top of Little Devil’s Tower all day. The views were beautiful. Maybe the strong winds were the work of a mischievous devil who didn’t want us to linger too long. More likely, it was just mother nature doing her thing.

Despite the hostile gale, we captured the pictures below showing the amazing scenery in each direction.

Summary

The top of this summit truly provides the best view in Custer State Park. If you can manage the final 200-feet climb of steep rock scrambling to the top, this is a fun and gorgous hike.

Another positive aspect – it’s not as busy as other hikes in the park.


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2 thoughts on “The Remarkable Scramble to Little Devil’s Tower

    1. Custer State Park has to be one of the best state parks in the country. There is so much to do and see near the park too. I’m sure you wound love it. I will be posting more stories about the park, so stay tuned!

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