Finding Peace at Bear Butte Mountain
When you think of Sturgis do you think of sacred mountain hikes?
Likely your mind is drawn to the wild motorcycle festival that happens each and every year. But outside of that time Sturgis South Dakota is just a small town of 6,000 some odd folks lying in South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills National Forest region.
One of the crowning day hikes in this region is located just miles from downtown Sturgis and goes by the name of Bear Butte Mountain; located inside of the small state park of Bear Butte State Park. (The park primarily protects this sacred mountain and a few herds of roaming buffalo.) A six dollar visitor fee gets you access to everything you could possibly want to explore in this state park.
Bear Butte Mountain is a special hike because it is more than just a workout. According to two local Native American Tribes it is a mountain that is truly sacred and should always be protected. They also believe and invite you to make the hike in quiet and perhaps silence. Prayer flags adorn the path on the way to the top of the mountain and at the top.
Please honor the requests of the tribes and DO NOT TOUCH THE PRAYER FLAGS!
From the Bear Butte site: “Mato Paha or "Bear Mountain" is the Lakota name given to this site. To the Cheyenne, it is "Noahvose." This geological formation is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies. Please be respectful of worshippers and their religious practices.
Many American Indians see Bear Butte as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer.”
The summit up Bear Mountain is two miles each way and it gains over 1,000 feet in elevation. I was fortunate enough to have some of the best weather this whole region of South Dakota had to date in the spring. Every person we ran into kept telling me how beautiful it was and it wasn’t normally like this. The day I hiked up Bear Butte it was 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with no humidity, and perfectly epic blue skies. A week after my trip there (late April) it snowed six inches on May Day in Spearfish South Dakota; located just twenty miles away.
Perhaps the locals weren’t pulling my chain after all?!
After trekking over loose rocks for about two miles you are rewarded with the peaceful and beautiful summit. I often tell people it’s the unique stories that I find along the way of my travels and that is the real reason I love to travel. This adventure was no exception. I ran into a couple who was training for the epic Rim to Rim Hike in Grand Canyon National Park. They were about four weeks out from heading to Arizona and they lived about 90 minutes away in a small town in Wyoming. For training on this particular day they had chosen to hike up Bear Butte Mountain THREE STRAIGHT TIMES! I met them at the top of their third summit and we got to exchange funny training tips for Rim to Rim and they gave me some other great hiking tidbits for the region. You can’t run into people like that by binge watching Netflix.
As I mentioned previously in the post the hike up Bear Butte is more than a physical challenge. It is a mental one as well. I hiked in silence and without music outside of the one conversation with the couple at the top and I really got down on my own contemplation of life and a walking meditation. There’s been a lot I needed time to clear my head about lately in life and this was a perfect way to do it.
Did it solve everything for me? No of course not; like most true seekers when you live into your presence and feel what you feel it brings up more instead of less. However it gave me nuggets of clarity and ideas for how to proceed and navigate.
The native tribes say that spiritual awakenings can and will occur again on the hike up Bear Butte Mountain. I didn’t have one of those but I certainly found peace and ease and wisdom from the mountain during a very chaotic time in my life.
If you make it to the Black Hills National Forest or anywhere remotely near Sturgis SD don’t forget that they have more than a motorcycle festival. The land of the Harley’s might also just bring you the quiet peace you were looking for if you come on one of the other 50 weeks of the year the festival isn’t during!
Have you been on this hike or even to the Sturgis/Spearfish/Black Hills Region?
Leave your comments below with your experience and thanks for reading this part and being a part of our outdoor adventure community!
Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Mike R and The Hashtag 59 Team