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Sylvan Lake, Custer

4.8
#2 of 16 in Parks in Custer
Known as the crown jewel of Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake offers views of the Black Hills that showcase the sweeping pine forest as a backdrop for dramatic rocky outcroppings along the lakeshore. Created in 1881 when Theodore Reder built a dam across Sunday Gulch, the lake offers swimming, paddle boating, fishing, and picnicking, along with access to rock climbing and hiking trails. The lake sits at the base of Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains; you can use it as a starting point for excursions to the peak and the park's drive along The Needles highway. Film fans may recognize the site, which was featured in the 2007 movie "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." Plan your visit to Sylvan Lake and a wealth of other attractions, well-known and undiscovered, using our Custer vacation planner.
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Sylvan Lake Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
1,511 reviews
Google
4.8
TripAdvisor
  • In our 2 week western adventure, this was one of our favorite places...maybe even the most favorite. We could have spent a full day or two here at Sylvan Lake. We did the trail around and had plenty o...  more »
  • We always enjoy our visits to Sylvan Lake. The lake is beautiful, the trail around the lake is beautiful and whole experience is always wonderful.  more »
  • If you go to Custer State Park, Sylvan lake is a must! A nice place to chill and relax. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards. Rock climbing is fun, but be cautious... The beach is more family orienta...  more »
Google
  • Absolutely Gorgeous! Breathtaking! Peaceful! This is a place where you must stay the night to enjoy the sunrise. A perfect place for kayaking. You can host your wedding ceremony by the lakeside. Picnicking strongly encouraged! Take phone solar chargers and a real camera because you are going to take lots of photos!
  • This might be my new favorite lake that I have ever visited. The scenery was top notch and the trail around the lake was great and not too difficult. The water temp was much warmer than expected. I don't know if you are able to swim in it, but the water temp would allow you to do so. I didn't get to walk the trail to Black Elk Peak, but if I ever go back, I will make sure to take the hike.
  • So glad we were told about Sylvan Lake! The name makes it sound pretty, serene and, you know, kinda dull. Turns out this is a Must See place! Beautiful and amazing rock formations, stark contrasts, great walks, trails and hiking. Became one of the highlights of our trip.
  • Fun place for family to just relax and splash in the lake. We got a week pass which was $20. We weren’t planning on stopping here but so glad we did. People there were more prepared, they had food, chairs, towels, digging toys and canoes and such. Definitely kid friendly lake.
  • We hiked here two different days, the views were amazing. The lake itself was beautiful and the trails were very well marked and had rails/concrete steps on a few of the difficult parts. We hiked the Sunday Gulch Trail one day then hiked Harney Peak and Little Devil’s Tower the next. These didn’t seem too bad at first but for the average hiker I would say they are very moderate. Be sure to wear boot/shoes and expect some water along the trail! There were parts that surprised me and got very steep. The views are worth the hike and you are almost guaranteed to see wildlife. We saw goats and tons of deer. Best place I’ve hiked in South Dakota for sure. Highly recommend this place!
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Plans to Sylvan Lake by other users

22 days in United States BY A USER FROM CZECH REPUBLIC June, culture, outdoors, relaxing, historic sites, museums, wildlife, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: June, culture, outdoors, relaxing, historic sites, museums, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 5 days in Keystone BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, outdoors, historic sites, wildlife, popular sights PREFERENCES: August, outdoors, historic sites, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 2 days in Hot Springs BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES November, popular sights PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 5 days in South Dakota BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES April, culture, outdoors, popular sights PREFERENCES: April, culture, outdoors ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 29 days in United States BY A USER FROM NEW ZEALAND August, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: August ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 21 days in South Dakota BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES November, kids, popular sights PREFERENCES: November, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 8 days in Midwest BY A USER FROM BELGIUM November, culture, outdoors, historic sites, wildlife, popular sights PREFERENCES: November, culture, outdoors, historic sites, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 4 days in Rapid City BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES November, teens, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife, popular sights PREFERENCES: November, teens, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 4 days in Hot Springs BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES November, beaches, museums, popular sights PREFERENCES: November, beaches, museums ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 6 days in Keystone BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES December, popular sights PREFERENCES: December ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 58 days in United States BY A USER FROM AFGHANISTAN January, culture, relaxing, beaches, wildlife, slow & easy, popular sights PREFERENCES: January, culture, relaxing, beaches, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Slow & easy 5 days in Badlands National Park BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES May, popular sights PREFERENCES: May ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium
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