Discover Bear Butte State Park, South Dakota

Located in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota, Bear Butte State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history lovers. Dominated by the impressive Bear Butte, or “Mato Paha” to the Lakota people, this park is a sacred site with deep spiritual significance. Rising 1,200 feet above the plains, Bear Butte offers stunning views and a serene atmosphere.

The park features a variety of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Interpretive signs provide information on the area’s rich history, unique geology, and diverse wildlife. Visitors can encounter deer, prairie dogs, and numerous bird species.

Whether you are looking for a peaceful escape, historical exploration, or an invigorating hike, Bear Butte State Park promises a memorable experience connecting you to nature and the region’s cultural heritage.


Top 3 Facts about Bear Butte State Park


Sacred Site

Bear Butte, known as Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain” to the Lakota people, is a sacred site for many Native American tribes. For centuries, it has been a place of prayer and meditation, and prayer cloths and offerings tied to trees and shrubs along the trails are often seen.


Geological Marvel

Bear Butte is an ancient geological formation that is the exposed core of a dormant volcano. It stands 1,200 feet above the surrounding plains, providing spectacular panoramic views of the Black Hills and the surrounding area.


Diverse Wildlife

The park is home to various wildlife, including deer, prairie dogs, and a wide range of bird species. Birdwatchers can spot everything from hawks and eagles to songbirds, making it a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

Where to Sleep

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Mason Street Getaway

555 Mason St, Saugatuck, MI 49453, USA
Number of Guests 5
Bathrooms 2
Bedrooms 2
Sq Footage 1,165
Carbon monoxide detectors, Fire extinguisher, First aid kit, Generator, Smoke detectors
$475.00 / day
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JP Rest House

V262+C5P, Manikganj, Bangladesh
Number of Guests 4
Bathrooms 2
Bedrooms 4
Sq Footage 2,400
Carbon monoxide detectors, Fire extinguisher, First aid kit, Generator, Smoke detectors
$300.00 / day
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Majestic Lakefront Log Cabin in the NC High Plains

121 Whispering Wolf Wy
Number of Guests 5
Bathrooms 2
Bedrooms 2
Sq Footage 1,500
Carbon monoxide detectors, Fire extinguisher, First aid kit, Generator, Smoke detectors
$195.00 / day
sparkles New

Juniper Cabin

3601 Monck Road,Kawartha Lakes,ON,CA,K0M 2L0
Bathrooms 1
Bedrooms 2
$198.00 / day

Hemlock Cabin

3601 Monck Road,Kawartha Lakes,ON,CA,K0M 2L0
Bathrooms 1
Bedrooms 2
$194.14 / day

Greenash Cabin

3601 Monck Road,Kawartha Lakes,ON,CA,K0M 2L0
Bathrooms 1
Bedrooms 2
$182.42 / day

Dogwood Cabin

3601 Monck Road,Kawartha Lakes,ON,CA,K0M 2L0
Bathrooms 1
Bedrooms 2
$182.42 / day

Camping and transportation in Bear Butte State Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Bear Butte State Park

Getting to Bear Butte State Park is relatively straightforward, whether coming from within South Dakota or further afield. Here are the general directions to help you reach this scenic and culturally significant destination:

By Car:

From Rapid City, South Dakota (approximately 45 miles):

  1. Head North on I-90: Take Interstate 90 West from Rapid City.
  2. Take Exit 30: Exit at Sturgis, South Dakota.
  3. Turn Left onto Junction Avenue: Follow Junction Avenue through Sturgis.
  4. Turn Right onto SD-79 North: Follow SD-79 for about 6 miles.
  5. Turn Right onto SD-34 East: Follow SD-34 for about 4 miles.
  6. Turn Left onto Bear Butte Road: Follow this road directly to the park entrance.

By Air:

Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) is the nearest major airport, about 50 miles from Bear Butte State Park. You can rent a car from the airport and follow the driving directions above.

Places to Stay Near Bear Butte State Park

Inside the Park

Bear Butte State Park offers the beauty of the great outdoors with campgrounds that bring you closer to nature. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Non-electric campsites: Perfect for the traditional camper, grab one of the 15 non-electric campsites that operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Imagine waking up to the chirping of birds right outside your tent!
  • Horse campsites: If you’re bringing your equine friend along, there are four non-electric horse campsites for a delightful equestrian experience.

Nearby Accommodations

Now, if sleeping under the stars isn’t your style, don’t worry—there’s a variety of accommodations just a stone’s throw away:

  • Hotels and motels: A short drive from the park, you’ll find a selection of hotels and motels with all the comforts you’d expect, like soft beds, hot showers, and maybe even a free continental breakfast.
  • Vacation rentals: For more space or if you’re traveling with a group, consider a vacation rental. You can choose from houses that offer the feel of home with the freedom to cook your own meals and spread out.
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Public Bus


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Best Time to Go to Bear Butte State Park



Summer boasts long, sunny days with average temperatures reaching up to 80°F, perfect for trail explorers. Planning a trip during this peak season means you’ll need to be prepared for more visitors, but the draw is the warm weather suitable for hiking to the summit. Keep hydrated and start early to enjoy the cooler morning air!



For snow enthusiasts, winter transforms the park into a quiet, snowy haven with average temperatures hovering around 20-30°F. It’s peaceful, and the trails are less trafficked. Winter sports like cross-country skiing may be on your list but do check accessibility, as some park facilities may be limited.



Spring is your chance to witness the rebirth of nature. Average temperatures in spring are a mild 45-60°F, inviting for hikes without the summer crowds. The snow’s retreat beckons wildflowers to blanket the park, making it ideal for photographers and nature enthusiasts. Remember, trails can be muddy from melting snow, so sturdy boots are essential.

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Must-See Attractions

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Bear Butte Summit Trail

A moderately challenging hike that takes you to the summit of Bear Butte, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The trail is about 2 miles long and features interpretive signs about the history and geology of the area.

Bear Butte Lake

A serene lake at the base of Bear Butte, Bear Butte Lake is perfect for fishing, kayaking, and picnicking.

Cultural & Historical Sites

Various locations around the park highlight Bear Butte’s cultural heritage and historical significance. These include sacred prayer cloths tied to trees and interpretive signs explaining the Native American connection to the site.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Bear Butte State Park

Plan Ahead

Check the Weather

South Dakota weather can be unpredictable. Check the forecast and dress in layers to accommodate temperature changes.

Pack Appropriately

Pack Appropriately

Bring plenty of water, especially if you plan to hike the summit trail. There are no water sources on the trail.

Respect Wildlife

Respect Cultural Sites

Bear Butte is a sacred site for many Native American tribes. Be respectful of prayer flags, offerings, and other cultural artifacts. Do not disturb these items.

Stay Informed

Stay on Designated Trails

For safety and to protect the natural environment, stay on designated trails and follow all posted signs.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Bear Butte State Park

Bear Butte is a sacred site for several Native American tribes, including the Lakota and Cheyenne. It is considered a place of spiritual importance, where traditional ceremonies and prayers are conducted.

The Bear Butte Summit Trail is approximately two miles long. It is a moderately challenging hike that takes you to the summit, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Yes, camping is available at Bear Butte State Park. The park offers primitive camping sites with basic amenities. It is recommended to make reservations in advance, especially during peak season.

Yes, fishing is allowed at Bear Butte Lake. Anglers can fish for various species, including bass and catfish. A valid South Dakota fishing license is required.

Yes, Bear Butte State Park is open year-round. However, access to certain areas and facilities may be limited during winter months due to snow and ice.

For a day hike, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat, sturdy hiking boots, a trail map, snacks, and a camera. It’s also good to check the weather forecast before your hike.

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