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A gorgeous view of the rocky landscape of Bear Butte State Park, South Dakota

Bear Butte State Park lies deep within the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, only 8 miles north of Sturgis. This scenic area, also known as Bear Mountain, is culturally important to many Native American Indian tribes. It represents an area where the creator may communicate through visions and prayer. And because of this it is common to see colorful pieces of cloth hanging from the trees.

Guests to this South Dakota state park enjoy communing with nature while hiking, horseback riding, paddling, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, and camping.


Bear Butte State Park is an interesting place to visit for a day or escape to for a rustic get away. Pack a picnic lunch and relax in one of the scenic picnic areas before heading out for a fun paddle on Bear Butte Lake.

After hiking up the Summit Trail stop in and check out the Bear Butte Education Center to learn more about the area around Bear Mountain, its geology, history, and cultural importance. The Center is open daily May through September.

Here are some of the activities that you can do during your visit to Bear Butte State Park:

Boating at Bear Butte State Park

Spend a peaceful day paddling on Bear Butte Lake. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and motor boats are allowed access to this picturesque lake. A boat ramp is located in the day use area.

The lake at Bear Butte State park on a sunny day

Hiking at Bear Butte State Park

Bear Butte State Park features several miles of hiking trails that wind throughout the wooded hills and across grassy flatlands. The steep climb up to the Summit offers beautiful views as does the trail around Bear Butte Lake. Guests interested in exploring further can access the 111 mile Centennial Trail from inside the park.

Here are a couple of the trails at Bear Butte State Park:

  • Summit Trail – This moderate 1.85 mile winds up the steep wooded slope to the summit. This trail’s path is narrow and contains many switchbacks. Pets are not allowed on this trail.
  • Lake Trail – A moderate 2.5 mile multi-use trail that leads through the grass and around Bear Butte Lake. Be aware of rattlesnakes along this trail.

Horseback Riding at Bear Butte State Park

Guests may bring their horses and ride on a portion of the trails inside Bear Butte State Park. Riding is permitted on the 111 mile long Centennial Trail and on the southern side of the Lake Trail. The park has a first-come, first-served horse camping area near the Centennial Trail. All out of state horses must have a clean health certificate and a negative Coggins report on them at all times.

buffalo grazing at Bear Butte State Park

Fishing at Bear Butte State Park

With the right gear and a South Dakota fishing license you may find yourself enjoying a relaxing fishing day during your visit to Bear Butte State Park. Bear Butte Lake is a great spot to catch Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Crappie, and Yellow Bullhead. Guests may fish from shoreline, pier, or their boat.

Birding at Bear Butte State Park

A portion of the Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Birding Trail passes through Bear Butte State Park. This extensive trail includes 38 sites and more than 350 sighted species within western South Dakota. A few of these bird species – Mountain Bluebird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Poorwill, Spotted Towhee, Bald Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks and pigeons – may be observed throughout the park.

Interestingly enough, pigeons were introduced to this area by early settlers. They were kept as a supplemental food source at that time. Today they may be seen nesting among the cliffs.

Nature and Wildlife at Bear Butte State Park

The scenic Black Hills, dotted with Ponderosa pines and Junipers, is a spectacular place to visit. As you’re exploring this beautiful area keep an eye out for chipmunks, rabbits, porcupines, mice, snakes, and buffalo. Be very careful if you do see buffalo, they are dangerous creatures.


Well behaved pets are allowed at Bear Butte State Park but must be supervised and leashed. For safety reasons, pets are not permitted on the Summit Trail.


Bear Butte State Park offers guests a choice of non-electric campsites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. These 19 campsites, 4 of which are located within a camping area designated for horses and their owners, are open year round. Flush toilets and drinking water are located within the park but are turned off between Oct 1 and April 30. The park’s vault toilets are open during that time.

Park Location

Bear Butte State Park
20250 SD-79
Sturgis, SD 57785
Phone: 605.347.5240

Park Website



Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Bear Butte State Park: