Black Elk Wilderness

Trail 8 Wilderness Area

Black Elk Wilderness & Norbeck Wildlife Preserve Trail System Map on Avenza

Black Elk Wilderness is located in in the center of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and was designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by Congress in 1980. The area is named for the Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Black Elk and is sacred to many American Indians.  It is the only Wilderness at Black Hills National Forest and currently spans over 13,426 acres.

This area is managed to ensure public enjoyment while protecting the unique natural character of these special places. Motorized equipment and mechanized transport are prohibited, there are no developed facilities, and horses and hiking are the primary means of transportation in these Congressionally-mandated wilderness areas.

With its rugged terrain, magnificent scenery and well-maintained trail system, the Black Elk Wilderness sees heavy visitation, especially on Trail #9 from Sylvan Lake. (Lookout Tower Preservation Video & Photos; 2013 & 2014) Climbing Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) is a very popular activity, making opportunities for solitude very elusive. If you are seeking solitude use an alternative trail such as Lost Cabin #2 (National Recreation Trail) or Grizzly Bear Creek #7 to reach the Peak. These routes are longer but provide a greater solitude experience. Visitors share this unique landscape with mountain goats, turkey, deer, mountain lions and an abundant number of bird species.

The weather system is variable and can be harsh. Thunderstorms producing hail, high winds and heavy rains are common in summer afternoons. Temperature drops accompany these quick building storms. Be prepared for all sorts of weather changes.

Please note: The qualities that make Black Elk Wilderness a treasure are jeopardized by its popularity due to visitor impact. Please view the special regulations associated with Wilderness and always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep this area wild, clean, and pristine.

At a Glance

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

General Information

General Notes:

Black Elk Wilderness Brochure

Wilderness broshure.

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!


Black Elk Wilderness is accessible from the Black Hills National Forest, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Custer State Park.

Topo maps

Forest Service Topography Maps: These maps overlay Forest Service assets, such as roads, trails, and campgrounds, on USGS's topographic maps. They are available for download by quadrangle.

Buy maps online

National Forest Store:  Offers a full, nationwide selection of National Forest, Ranger District, Wilderness, and Specialty Maps for purchase online or by phone, fax, and mail.

View Black Elk Wilderness on Go to for additional maps and information about Wilderness.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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