Cathedral Spires, South Dakota

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Cathedral Spires

One of Custer State Park’s unique and stand-out features is the Cathedral Spires – a group of granite pillars located in the Needles that have been designated a National Natural Landmark.

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  • Custer State Park’s Cathedral Spires a unique geological formation in the Needles area. 
  • Excellent classic traditional climbing can found on all sides of the gullies and ridges that make up the Cathedral Spires. 
  • The Cathedral Spires Trail is a scenic moderate to strenuous hike the heads past the Spires and out toward Harney Peak.

The Cathedral Spires of South Dakota are a striking feature that manages to stand out from the dramatic landscape of the Black Hills. Besides providing beauty for the eyes, the Cathedral Spires offer classic traditional rock climbing and hiking.


The Cathedral Spires are located in Custer State Park along the Needles Highway, 2.5 miles east of Sylvan Lake.


A temporary (1-7 days) license is $20 per vehicle and $10 per motorcycle. An annual park entrance license is $30 and you can buy a second annual park entrance license for $15.


Cathedral Spires, like the surrounding Needles area, is home to some great climbing. The five main granite ridges (aptly named One, Two, Three, Four and Five) are easily accessible with a short walk (roughly one mile) from the main parking area, located along Needles Highway between the Needle’s Eye and Ten Pins. While many climbers enjoy the solitude found in the gullies between the ridges and the longer multi-pitch routes, be aware that the climbing is not always straightforward and gear placement can be difficult.


For non-climbers, or climbers who enjoy hiking on rest days, the Cathedral Spires Trail leads past Cathedral Spires and the Limber Pine Area on its way toward Harney Peak and Sylvan Lake, although it doesn’t actually connect with the Harney Peak trail system.

  • Distance: 5 miles 
  • Time: 2 hours 
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous 
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Trailhead: 2.5 miles east of Sylvan Lake on Needles Highway


The closest campground to the Spires is Sylvan Lake Campground. Camping fees are $21-$25.