Thursday, June 11, 2009

· Beaches / Trails At Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake
Harney Peak from Palmer Gulch Trailhead
If you will be visiting the Black Hills in late June through August, perhaps early September, chances are you will find the perfect climate for outdoor swimming! Sylvan Lake has a beautiful small beach, which, if it were visible in the first photo above, would be found somewhere between the elongated granite mounds on the left. 

Sheridan Lake and Pactola Lake both have beaches. One of the lakes in Custer State Park has a somewhat larger beach, pretty as can be. In Hot Springs you will find Evans Plunge, which is an indoor/outdoor facility warmed by natural 'hot springs', and features waterslides. Hot Springs is in the southern Hills (about 45 miles from centrally-located Hill City). Hot Springs may be approached via a scenic drive through Wind Cave National Park, where you might want to take advantage of the cool underground caverns. No doubt there are other splashy places around here, too. You might try asking some of the locals where they go for a swim!

Back to Sylvan Lake, it is certainly a favorite in the near vicinity of Hill City (approximately 10 miles), extraordinarily picturesque. The water goes from shallow to fairly deep in the designated swimming area, so probably something agreeable for everyone regarding temperature, not excessively cold in the summer months. The beach is also in close proximity to a trailhead leading to the top of Harney Peak (second photo above), extremely popular with visitors and locals alike...about a 3 to 4 hour hike. Amazing views up there!
(The peak is not visible from Sylvan Lake.) Another spectacular hike can be found below the dam of Sylvan Lake. It is the Sunday Gulch Trail and descends between massive granite mountains on concrete and boulder steps, with supportive railings placed strategically. 

After swimming and/or hiking one might expect a bit of an appetite. Conveniently near the Sylvan Lake beach, a picnic area is equipped with tables and fire grates for grilling hotdogs and other grillables. On the opposite side of the lake a souvenir store offers a small take-out eatery and an outdoor patio for picnicking. There is a fine dining restaurant nearby as well.

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