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It may look like a pan of puffed-up Jiffy Pop, but reaching Crow Peak's summit  proved to be a hiking challenge for Lee Schoenbeck and his wife, Donna.
It may look like a pan of puffed-up Jiffy Pop, but reaching Crow Peak's summit proved to be a hiking challenge for Lee Schoenbeck and his wife, Donna.
Looking for Crow Peak Trail? This sign will not help you.
Looking for Crow Peak Trail? This sign will not help you.
Hikers can spot Terry Peak's ski runs from the trail.
Hikers can spot Terry Peak's ski runs from the trail.
Spearfish rests in Crow Peak's shadow.
Spearfish rests in Crow Peak's shadow.
Sometimes it's better not to look down.
Sometimes it's better not to look down.
Lee Schoenbeck, halfway up the trail.
Lee Schoenbeck, halfway up the trail.
Snow on the trail makes the hike a little more difficult.
Snow on the trail makes the hike a little more difficult.
The pasqueflowers were abundant along the trail.
The pasqueflowers were abundant along the trail.

Hiking Crow Peak Trail

May 8, 2013

 

Driving into Spearfish from the north this past week, my wife and I noticed a big mountain towering over Spearfish to the west. It looked like a pan of heated Jiffy Pop popcorn about to pop, so we had to check it out. We’re trying to hike most the trails in the Hills, so it looked like an opportunity.
 

WHAT IS IT

Crow Peak owes its shape to the magma that formed it many years ago by creeping up through fissures in the limestone and cooling. It is the product of the same geological action that formed its neighbors to the west, Devils Tower, and to the east, Bear Butte.
 

HOW DO WE GET THERE?  GOOD QUESTION!

How can a mountain be so hard to find? Here's a hint: take Higgins Gulch Road.

The Forest Service map tells you to take Utah Street west out of Spearfish to Road #214. There are at least three reasons why that map will not get you to Crow Peak.

First, there are no road signs. None. Nada. These people obviously got no promotional advice from the Hustead family at Wall Drug. The only sign concerning Crow Peak Trail is behind the first row of trees when you are starting your hike up the trail. You can’t even see it from the parking lot at the trailhead.

Second, according to GPS and the corresponding road signs, “Utah Street” is actually Hillsview Road. There surely is an interesting local explanation for that one.

Finally, according to the Forest Service map, there is no Road #214 anywhere near Crow Peak! The real road that you want to find, while driving west out of Spearfish on Hillsview Road, is Higgins Gulch Road.

So, how does one actually find Crow Peak, then? The obvious and most dependable way for an informed South Dakotan to do so is to call Spearfish native and Black Hills State University grad Jason Glodt on your cell phone and let him talk you through the route. Bernie won’t let me publish Jason’s cell phone number here, so just email me if you are planning the trip and I’ll send it to you. The trail is worth the trip (and the call, if you need it).
 

COME FOR THE EXERCISE, CATCH YOUR BREATH WITH THE VIEW

The Crow Peak trail is 3.2 miles up, and unless you can fly, another 3.2 back down. Smokers need to hang close to the parking lot on this one — it is a work out. It’s rated “difficult” according to the trail system map. For perspective, the popular and strenuous hike from Sylvan Lake to the fire tower at Harney Peak is rated an easier stroll. 

The trail circles the peak as it rises from 4200 to 5600 feet. The hikers enjoy — through very deep breaths — vistas of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota landmarks. The ski runs at Terry Peak are crystal clear to the southeast. Bear Butte is obvious as it looms to the east. Spearfish and its valley are at your feet.
 

ALWAYS IN GOOD COMPANY

We saw seven groups on the trail, and it looked like all but one would make it to the top. As you would expect with any South Dakota place, you meet friendly folks on the trail. While having lunch on the Peak we met Jesse Wolff and his buddy who had hiked up just behind us. Their effort was a little more strenuous, as very young Michael had tagged along in a backpack on his father’s back. Michael was fun to watch on top. While the adults were discussing the view, the mine you can clearly see, and the beauty of the Hills, Michael was pretty much focused on the charms of the Cheerios his astute father had packed in.

 

ENJOY THE STROLL DOWN

On the way down you breathe a lot easier. Hiking down the mountain finally gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery. We were surprised to see the abundance of our state flower, the pasque, in bloom about us along the trail. We didn’t see any mountain lions, but I would’ve been prepared. I had assured my wife that if one came upon us, I would swiftly run for help. She didn’t seem reassured, and I noticed that she decided to wear her running shoes too — instead of the boots I bought her!

 

Lee Schoenbeck grew up in Webster, practices law in Watertown, and is a freelance writer for the South Dakota Magazine website.


Comments

04:42 pm - Wed, May 8 2013
larry kurtz said:
Had the creator of these photographs panned to the south, images of mountain-top removal mining been displayed. Cute girl, though.
06:54 pm - Wed, May 8 2013
Good pix, Lee! I'm glad you and Donna made it to the top! Crow Peak offers a great view of Spearfish and the whole world around it. I could sit up there for hours and look... if I didn't have to get down in time to get home for supper!
07:59 am - Thu, May 9 2013
Laura Andrews said:
Sounds like fun. I bet the folks at Visit Spearfish would be willing to give directions, too: http://www.visitspearfish.com/
08:13 am - Thu, May 9 2013
Josh said:
I agree finding the trailhead can be a bit tricky. But, worth the search for sure!
12:28 pm - Thu, May 9 2013
Rebecca said:
My husband and I had a hard time finding the trail, too! It is an awesome hike, though.
05:50 pm - Thu, May 9 2013
Ed Goss said:
Think trying to find the hiking trail from a fs map being difficult can you imagine trying to find an ATV trail on one of the fs maps.
07:44 am - Mon, May 13 2013
Jason Glodt said:
Great story Lee! I am glad you found it. Crow peak is a great hike with a remarkable view! BTW- my cell # is 605.280.7767
12:51 pm - Tue, May 14 2013
John Andrews said:
Please tell me you celebrated your successful hike with a beverage from Crow Peak Brewery!
02:22 pm - Sun, July 7 2013
Lauren Nelson said:
Celebrated July 4th on top of Crow Peak. Thanks for the directions.
12:24 pm - Sun, June 22 2014
Jean Thomas said:
How long did it take to hike up and then down? I have learned from experience that 3.2 miles is not the same up a trail as it is where I live in the country in Iowa. We did Lover's Leap a few years ago in the Black Hills and it took us most of the afternoon for a 3 mile trip.
We are 50 year olds, but hiking is a typical pastime for us.

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