Elk Mountains of South Dakota
Written by Marcus Heerdt
December 9, 2019

How many mountain ranges does South Dakota have? One? Two? One and a half? Well, the Black Hills (named hills after the Lakota translation “Paha Sapa”) are a small, oval-shaped, greatly eroded mountain range in the middle of the Northern Great Plains with peak elevations over 7,000 feet. More on that here: https://www.custersd.com//blog/But...they're-called-hills

But what about the Elk Mountains?

The Elk Mountains are “geologically distinct from the Black Hills” and are located in far western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. The range is formed of hard sandstone and the highest point is Elk Mountain at an elevation of 5,662 feet. At that location, there is an active, Black Hills National Forest staffed fire tower. The Hell Canyon Ranger District manages the South Dakota side, and the Bearlodge Ranger District manages the Wyoming portion. Altogether, the Elk Mountains are 34 miles long and run from US Highway 16 near the WY-SD border to just northeast of Edgemont.

However, some refer to the Elk Mountains as part of the Dakota Hogback, a sandstone ridgeline that encircles the Black Hills, and that they are “part of the west-dipping Black Hills monocline.”

Yet, the United States Geological Survey does have an official listing for the Elk Mountain Range, and they are specifically listed as such on the official Black Hills National Forest map.

But whatever name one may refer to the range as, it is still a very beautiful area that is worth visiting. (Photo below: View of Elk Mountains from Surveyors Hill)

Photos by: Marcus Heerdt

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