Custer State Park, Part 2: Cathedral Spires Trail

Leaving Sylvan Lake we returned to the Needles Highway, ascending further into the rocky peaks to the southeast. After we wound our way up and through the narrow tunnels – which I’ll write about in my next post – we crested the high point and began the meander down the backside until we reached the trailhead for the Cathedral Spires Trail.

Like the trail around Sylvan Lake, the hike to the Cathedral Spires was short, about a mile and a half each way. Unlike the previous trail however was the elevation gain; all the altitude we’d lost driving down from the tunnels to the trailhead we seemed to be regaining the hard way. Still, despite the 700 feet of ascent it was still an easy trail, broad and well-trodden. We were able to see the tops of the spires from the start and I was already swooning – but as soon as we circled around their base and began the climb to meet them I became incredibly enthusiastic as I realized we were headed to a small valley where we’d be walking amongst them. Surrounded by the tall, weather pinnacles the last third of the trail was a dream, and I found myself wishing we had planned to spend more time in the Black Hills as each place we encountered seemed better than the last. The beauty of the Needles Highway beckoned however and so we put off further explorations of this area until a return visit.