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 Bear Butte State Park

Bear Butte State Park

Sturgis, South Dakota -- (605) 347-5240


Mato Paha or "Bear Mountain" is the Lakota name given to the unique formation at Bear Butte State Park. This formation is a lone mountain, not a flat-topped "butte" as its name implies. It is one of several intrusions of igneous rock that formed millions of years ago along the northern edge of the Black Hills.

This mountain is sacred to many Native Americans, and its ceremonial area is visited by thousands each summer. A lakeside use area provides 15 basic campsites near Bear Butte Lake for recreational camping. A small bison herd roams the base of the mountain.

Because of its natural and historical heritage, Bear Butte State Park has been designated as a National Natural Landmark and a National Recreation Trail.


In most religions, specific areas or sites hold great spiritual significance. Bear Butte is such a place.

Many Native Americans see the mountain as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer.

During your visit, you will see colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent the prayers offered by individuals during their worship. Please respect these offerings and leave them undisturbed.


An interpretive center at the base of Bear Butte provides insight into the historical and cultural significance of the mountain. During summer months, the center is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Special group arrangements are encouraged. Guided hikes are also available with prior notice.


In respect to religious activities that take place on the mountain, the park is managed for day-use only. Trails are open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

An entrance fee is required year-round. Persons visiting Bear Butte to participate in religious activities have been exempted from the state park system's entrance license requirement.


Two hiking trails wind their way around the slopes of Bear Butte. The Ceremonial Trail is a one-mile loop, that branches into an additional one-mile hike to the top of the mountain. At the summit, you'll discover a breathtaking view of four states. Please be sure to stay on the trails while hiking on the mountain. The park also serves as the northern trailhead for the 111-mile Centennial Trail.


Artifacts dating back 10,000 years have been found near Bear Butte. In more recent times, however, the Cheyenne and Lakota people have maintained a spiritual tie to this mountain.

Notable leaders including Red Cloud, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull have all visited Bear Butte. These visits culminated with an 1857 gathering of many Indian nations to discuss the advancement of white settlers into the Black Hills.

Perhaps Bear Butte's most publicized visitor was George A. Custer who lead an expedition of 1,000 men into the region. After camping near the mountain, Custer verified the rumors of gold in the Black Hills. Bear Butte then served as a landmark that helped guide a rush of invading prospectors and settlers into the region.

Facilities At A Glance

  • Visitor Center
  • Interpretive displays
  • Hiking trails
  • Lakeside use area
  • 15 campsites
  • Vault toilets
  • Three picnic areas with one shelter
  • A small lake
  • Boat ramp
  • Badlands National Park ] [ Bear Butte State Park ] Black Hills National Forest ] Crazy Horse Memorial ] Devils Tower National Monument ] Custer State Park ] Jewel Cave National Monument ] Mount Rushmore National Memorial ] Wind Cave National Park ] Scenic Byways - Peter Norbeck ] Scenic Byways - Spearfish Canyon ]

    Copyright 2006 [Vacation South Dakota]. All rights reserved.
    Revised: 07/28/2006