Custer State Park
Sunday Gulch Trail

Spires above the pines

Sunday Gulch is an amazingly diverse trail - meadows with long views, hard climbs to rocky ridges, steep cliffs, tight canyons, rock hopping and boulder scrambling, and the incomparable scenery of Sylvan Lake.

On a clear day the views are amazing - rock spires shooting up through the trees backdropped by mountains and far away valleys. On a foggy day the trail is mysterious as you wind through boulder fields and deep waterfilled canyons.
On any sort of day this is a very fun and beautiful hike!

From the junction of Interstate Hwy 385 and South Dakota Hwy 87 about 3 miles south of Hill City, follow SD 87 south as it winds it's way up 5.8 miles to a junction with SD 89.
Take a left to continue following 87 into the Sylvan Lake area of Custer State Park. Stop at the entrance station to pay for an entrance permit, then follow the right edge of Sylvan Lake counterclockwise till you reach a large parking lot.
Coordinates for the hike: 43.8458880,-103.5597890
Parking / Trailhead amenities
The paved parking lot is large and a bit tilted. There are pit toilets near the parking lot, and on the far side of the lake there is a general store and restaurant.
Trail observations
The trail starts by going clockwise around Sylvan Lake. As you approach the wall of rock at the far end of the lake, the trail splits. To the right is a dead end overlook, and to the left the trail seems to end as well. Head left and go through the wall.
On the far side of the crack, the trail will curve right and then fork. Take a sharp turn left at the fork and head up the hill, following the blue diamond blazes.
At the top of the climb the trail will hit a tee with a road near some cabins. Follow the road right as it heads downhill, then take a left at the bottom. From this point on there are no more 'tough' junctions. Just follow the trail that is marked by the blue diamonds, and you'll be fine.
Note that this trail is closed from November and well into the spring, as the gulch gets clogged with ice and becomes impassable.
Trail statistics
The trail is 4.86 miles long. The sum of all the uphill climbs is 425 feet.
Trail waypoints
0.00 miParkingParking lot
0.10 miTrailheadTrailhead
0.66 miLeft to crackFollow the trail left then right through the crack
0.84 miSharp leftExit the crack, curve right, then take a sharp left and head up
0.84 miFollow the blueFollow the blue diamond blazes
0.93 miTee rightTee - go right
1.01 miGo leftGo left and head uphill
1.24 miRock ridgeClimbing over a rock ridge
2.87 miStay rightBranch - stay right and follow the blue diamonds
4.36 miStay leftAt the trailhead sign, take a left and cross the bridge
4.46 miLeft from crackEnter the crack, then head left
4.86 miEnd of trailEnd of trail
Trail map - Sunday Gulch Trail
Altitude chart - Sunday Gulch Trail Parking Trailhead Left to crack Sharp left Stay left End of trail
Difficulty: Easy
Difficulty: Moderate
Feature: Rock scrambling
Feature: Waterfall
Terrain: Canyon
Terrain: Mountainous
Trail surface: Dirt
Trail surface: Gravel
Trail surface: Rock
Type: Loop
View: Enclosed
View: Overlooks
View: Wooded
State: South Dakota
Country: United States of America
Wikipedia Article for Sylvan Lake with some details about the National Treasure connection
Custer State Park site
Printable trail map in PDF format (29 Mb download)
Printable trail map in PNG format (5 Mb download)
Waypoints in CSV format
Waypoints in KML format
Instructions on using a trail description page
Instructions on using a trail map printout
Trails in the surrounding area
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Trailheads for Nebraska South Dakota, and Wyoming (4 additional trails)