Bear Butte State Park
Sturgis, South Dakota -- (605) 347-5240
ABOUT BEAR BUTTE STATE PARK
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
A SACRED MOUNTAIN
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
Lakeside use area
Three picnic areas with one shelter
A small lake