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Sylvan Lake, SD

In the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota, is Sylvan Lake, the crown jewel of Custer State Park. It's arguably one of the most recognizable of the five Custer State Park lakes and, is hands down, our most favorite! 

When you first place eyes on Sylvan Lake, it's honestly breathtaking. Nestled at the base of Harney Peak and surrounded by towering rock formations and ponderosa pines, Sylvan Lake is one of the most picturesque locations you'll explore in Custer State Park. Whether you stay for a few hours, a day or a week, you'll be enthralled with the beauty that surrounds Sylvan Lake.


Throw a blanket on the wild grass or sandy beach and relax in the sun, feel the breeze, and soak in the incredible view. Walk the trail around the lake, stopping at any of the docks to dip your feet in the water or do some fishing. Rent a paddle boat, canoe or kayak and row around the lake. Swim or float in the water. Climb on the rounded, majestic rocks that surround the lake. Explore the hiking trails that take you to the top of Harney Peak (Trail 9) or take the Sunday Gulch loop and wade through the stream at the bottom. Picnic lakeside or enjoy a nice meal at the Sylvan Restaurant (open from the end of April through the end of October). You might even witness a wedding on the shores of the lake!

Stay overnight at the Sylvan Lake Cabins and Lodge or set up your tent in the Sylvan Lake Campground. Lots of shade and cool mountain nights keep you comfortable during the summer heat. However, be sure to bring sunblock, a hat, long sleeves and a camera! 

Located in Custer State Park, just off SD-87, along the scenic Needles Highway, is Sylvan Lake. The Custer State Park entrance fee is $20/vehicle for a 1-7 day pass. Annual passes are available for $30. Parking is located to the east of the lake, restrooms are available and a general store is on the west side of the lake.

Extra Fun Fact:  The movie National Treasure Book of Secrets staring Nicolas Cage was filmed here.