Black Elk Wilderness

A Special Place

Black Elk Wilderness is located in in the center of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve & was designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by Congress in 1980. The area is named for the Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk & is sacred to many American Indians. It is the only Wilderness in the Forest & spans over 13,534 acres.

Brochure & Map

  • History

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    The CCC built the current stone fire tower that stands a top Black Elk Peak from 1938 to 1940.

  • Wilderness Rules & Restrictions

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    The increasing use of our nation's Wilderness areas has led to an increase in rules regulating recreation activities.

  • Wilderness Safety

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    Wilderness in the Black Hills is remote and emergency rescue is difficult or sometimes impossible. Please explore the backcountry with care and common sense. (Photo: Ricardo Loza)

  • Recreational Opportunities

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    With its rugged terrain, magnificent scenery & well-maintained trail system, the Wilderness sees heavy visitation, especially on Trail #9 from Sylvan Lake. Climbing Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) is a very popular activity, making opportunities for solitude very elusive.

At a Glance

Usage: Medium-Heavy
Restrictions: Wilderness restrictions apply. Please review.
Closest Towns: Custer, Hill City, & Keystone, SD
Water: Treat all non-potable water before consuming
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:

General Information

General Notes:

Resource Impact

Compliance with Wilderness management standards is a constant challenge. Increasing demands on the area have caused physical, biological and social impacts on the resource. Many management actions to minimize the impacts of heavy use have been taken. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Education and Information (inside and outside Wilderness)
  • Regulations: Special management and visitor regulations are in place to protect and preserve these wild lands from all users. It is YOUR responsibility to know and adhere to these rules while traveling and camping in wilderness.
  • Traditional Tools - To preserve the character and experience of wilderness, Black Hills National Forest trail crews and volunteers use traditional, human powered tools when maintaining trails in wilderness areas.

Please enjoy your wilderness areas and preserve the wilderness legacy for future generations!

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:


Recreation areas with activity Backpacking:

Horse Riding

Recreation areas with activity Horse Riding:

Viewing Scenery

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Scenery:

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Featured Events


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