Sylvan Lake South Dakota

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Sylvan Lake

Considered the crown jewel of Custer State Park, the word ‘beautiful’ seems to fall a bit flat when describing Sylvan Lake.

  • A breathtaking site, Sylvan Lake is considered Custer State Park’s crown jewel.
  • Visitors to Sylvan Lake enjoy hiking, swimming, boating and fishing.
  • Paddle boat rentals available at the general store. 
  • Hikers making their way to the top of Harnes Peak are rewarded with vistas of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, just 5 miles away. 


Nestled at the base of Harney Peak and surrounded by impressive rounded rock formations and ponderosa pine trees, Sylvan Lake is one of the most beautiful spots in the Black Hill’s Custer State Park. Whether you just pass by on the scenic Needles Highway or choose to spend an entire day at Sylvan Lake, you’ll find any number of ways to pass your time in the picturesque location.


Sylvan Lake is a stunning spot to go hiking, fishing, swimming, sun bathing, boating or to just sit back and enjoy the view during a warm afternoon picnic. Paddle boats are available for rent at the lake. Sylvan Lake is also near some of Custer State Park’s climbing areas.

If you are interested in hiking, there are several trailheads at Sylvan Lake that lead to an intricate circuit of lovely trails.

  • Trail 9: One of the most popular and rewarding trails, Trail 9 from Sylvan Lake Trailhead, takes you to the top of Harney Peak, the highest mountain east of the Rockies. Not only will you gain an impressive view of the Black Hills, but you'll get a glimpse of Mount Rushmore as well.
  • Sunday Gulch: The Sunday Gulch Trailhead also has a nice loop that leads away from Sylvan Lake, dropping down into Sunday Gulch and crossing the stream multiple times. A number of plants usually not seen in other parts of Custer State Park can be found in Sunday Gulch.

Guided Walks
For a more educational experience, guided geology walks offered by Custer State Park start at the Sylvan Lake General Store.

Camping and Lodging

Sylvan Lake Campground
The Sylvan Lake Campground offers campsites for $21/night ($25 for electric hook-up). All campsites have access to flush toilets, showers, and potable water. Camping Reservations and More Information.

Sylvan Lake Lodge
The Sylvan Lake Lodge features cozy rooms and rustic cabins for those wishing to spend a night next to the lake. The Lodge also houses a restaurant, general store and auditorium for large groups an special occasions.


Sylvan Lake is located in Custer State park, just off of SD-87, along the scenic Needles Highway.

Seasons and Fees

Custer State Park and Sylvan Lake are open year-round.

Sylvan Lake Campground is open May 27 through September 30.

Custer State Park Entrance fee is $20/vehicle for a 1-7 day pass. Annual passes are available for $30.