Mato Paha or "Bear Mountain" is the Lakota name given to this site. To the Cheyenne, it is "Noahvose." This geological formation is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies. Please be respectful of worshippers and their religious practices. A Sacred Mountain Many American Indians see Bear Butte 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.
Thru-hiked this trail in May with my friend. We had a friend meet us at pactola trailhead on day three to do a food drop so we only carried three days of food instead of six. It is actually 120 miles not 111 for planning. We averaged 20 per day, more with getting lost in the less marked sections!
All beautiful and very remote, we only saw other humans on bear butte and around pactola and Sheridan lake. Great trip!!
Michael N. on The Centennial Trail
I've never through hiked this trail, but have done the entire trail in sections. It's been a number of years now but it does have some serious water issues, so if you plan to through hike, I would recommend carrying about twice what you normally do. I carry a 100oz camelback normally and would carry an extra 70 oz if I was to do it again. The drought conditions were fairly high when I was hiking it, and I believe they have gone down somewhat. But note that some of the Trails Illustrated (USGS) maps showed streams and creeks where only dry beds remain.
That said, it is a beautiful hike in the northern hills, from about Rushmore north, and I would say it is also much more difficult. The southern portion is more open, less elevation change and a much easier hike all around (more water as well).
There is also a huge prairie dog metropolis at one point and the Black Elk Wilderness was by far my favorite section - very dense and closed.
One last note, on the less traveled sections of the trail, namely the far south and far north, the trail itself can be hard to find. The trail markers are not well kept (if you find one laying over, please prop it up for the next hiker and mark the location to report it) and you may find yourself backtracking at times. Very remote feeling in these areas.