Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing

Rock Climbers have been enjoying the crags in the Black Hills since the late 1930's.  After climbing and roaming coast to coast, Jan and Herb Conn settled near Custer in 1948.  They pioneered over 200 first ascents and named many of the beautiful spires of the area.  They mainly climbed in nearby Custer State Park in the climbing area known as the Needles.  The area has come a long way since the hemp ropes and pitons used by the Conns, but there is still a strict a tradition of ground up route development which can sometimes make for scarce protection by modern standards.  Pure 'sport' climbing routes have been developed in Custer State Park, but the majority of the routes require 'traditional' climbing gear for protection in addition to the bolts found there.  While there is currently not a complete guidebook to the Needles, there are plenty of smaller guidebooks and resources to help climbers find their way through this awesome maze like playground.

The Mount Rushmore climbing area is another popular option for rock climbers seeking to enjoy some great granite.  In The Needles of Rushmore guidebook published in 2012, readers will find everything from roadside crags to climbs in the Black Elk Wilderness that take some ambition and determination to get to.

Spearfish Canyon adds another dimension to Black Hills rock climbing.  The steep limestone walls are a sport climbers paradise.  With walls in various aspects, climbers can choose to climb in the sun during the colder months and relax in the shade during the heat of the summer.  There are several other smaller limestone crags in the area as well.

Devils Tower National Monument is just over the boarder of Wyoming, about 2 hours from Custer City.  It is a crack climbers paradise and classic summit on most climbers tick list.  If its to warm over there in the sun, or during the June Voluntary Climbing Closure, its easy to head back to the Black Hills proper and enjoy plenty of rock.

Bouldering also has a long history in Custer State Park.  John Gill arrows can still be found if you look closely and you can park next to The Thimble as it juts above the Needles Eye parking area.  The Thimble is a problem which is considered one of the great classics of modern climbing.  These days, Mount Baldy in the Rushmore area is a more popular spot for boulderers, as well as the Rock Maze up north along HWY 385.

Rock Climbing can be dangerous and climbers are encouraged to do their homework to know what they are getting into when setting off into the vertical world and ensure that they have the needed protection for the climbs, and long enough ropes for the rappels.  The Black Hills National Forest, Mount Rushmore National Park, Custer State Park, and Devils Tower National Monument all have different rules and regulations for use and climbers are expected to know and observe those rules such that we can all continue to enjoy access to these areas.

If you are here on vacation and want to experience your first technical rock climb or are looking to maximize your time on the rock instead of endlessly searching for routes, Sylvan Rocks Climbing Service will set you up with everything you need.  They have been guiding climbers around these parts since 1989.

Rock Climbing Guides

Sylvan Rocks Climbing School & Guide Service


615 Washington Street
Custer, SD 57730



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