Sunday Gulch Trail is a 4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near East Custer, SD that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
Sunday gulch is a moderate to strenuous hike right next to Sylvan lake. Dogs on leashes are okay, but be prepared to carry your dog at the start of the hike, as there are many areas that they need to jump down from. At the start there is a very rocky downward hike, the park service has provided handrails as you would likely struggle to climb down without them. Once you reach the bottom of this hike you are treated to an awesome stroll along a creek with awesome views of the various rock formations.
Very fun! The parts with railings and rock scrambling are a little like an adult jungle gym!
I really liked the variety of scenery and trail features. After walking past Sylvan Lake, I chose to go clockwise on the loop, as some of the other people have suggested here, and I'm glad I did it that way. Towards the end of the trail, the path guides you between an area of large boulders with a small creek running through it. There are handrails for you to hold onto since you have to climb over some smaller boulders and occasionally some steep steps to get through it. If you were going counterclockwise, you'd have to go down them, and I imagine it gets slippery at times. It's more strenuous going up them, but personally I like having the more challenging uphill parts at the end of a trail when I'm more loosened up...but that's me. Plus, they're beautiful to look at and a beautiful way to end the hike. Just make sure you have good hiking shoes. Starting clockwise, you're near the boulders at first and then start going down in elevation into mostly a forest area, sometimes going near the highway. The trail is considered 'strenuous' in the Custer State Park guide, probably because of the rocky terrain. The trail is narrow and windy, with you often having to walk over rocks and tree roots and occasionally having to climb over small boulders. To me, that just made it more fun, because I get bored easily. I encountered a few other hikers, but was by myself for most of it. There are also some good picture-taking opportunities, but I unfortunately didn't have a decent camera with me. Overall, I really enjoyed myself and would go again, but I'm only in the area for a short while longer and want to try out other trails. :)
great views good mix of terrain.
First real hike I ever did with my parents, (Although we just went down & back up the rock section) So Someday I wanted to do the whole thing, Finally my kids were old enough to do some hiking, so our first big trip out west was the Black hills (like my parents before me) Determined to make this my families 1st Hike, we set off, (No back packs) & two bottles of water for for 2 adults & 3 kids) First big mistake!!! The family was out of water at the bottom of the gorge, the moods quickly deteriorated. So I took the responsibility to "Run" ahead & get water to bring back on the trail, needless to say the 2nd part of this trail still seems a blur as I BRISKLY walked up the hilly forest to retrieve water & then ran back to hopefully find my family still alive. Which they were, needless to say this trail changed everything, we have never been caught without water again, nor have we done a trail since then that I don't know at least the distance we will be going. Lots of memories here some bad, some good, but it's still the trail that started it all gotta give it a (5) That said, don't underestimate it, it's tougher than it looks!
It was fun with some challenge. I loved the handrails and absolutely beautiful rock formations and water.
My two kids, age 5 and 9, my wife and I just hiked Sunday Gulch 7/28. It had rained in the morning. This trail was on the difficult side for us. Surprisingly, our 5 year old daughter was most excellent throughout the entire trail. Even the ascending boulders, via handrails, near the end. I also agree with others to hike this backwards (hand rails at the end) especially if you are hiking with little kids. This would have been almost un-doable the other way with the 5 year old. But we all absolutely loved it! The kids didn't complain at all. It took us a bit over three hours. The scenery was stunning. Too many spot s to pull over a get pics. 1/3 the way in you get to the trail stamp box to take your park stamps. You also hear horns honking above as you are close to the tunnels on Needles HWY. Don't underestimate your kids. Given a little extra time, even younger kids can enjoy. It was also kinda slippery cuz of the rain. Everyone should wear good trail shoes.
My favorite hike in Black Hills/Custer area. One portion of the hike is down a rocky creek area that is very cool as you climb down boulders and such, some with handrails. Dog had a blast on this trail. Not overly strenuous. Cool rock formations near trail.
Beautiful and very memorial hike.
Great hike through woods and along stream with good views in many spots. I would go clockwise leaving the bolder area for last. We find it easier going up that type terrain rather than going down...it was slippery in spots. Only downside is that its a strenuous way to end the hike. Combined with Lake Sylvan hike distance more like 4 miles.
Great trail, very enjoyable hike. My husband and I are 24 and 26 and very outdoorsy people but don't do much hiking. To me this trail was a bit harder than I was expecting. We hiked this on 26 June when the weather was high 70s.
We did the trail the wrong way, in my opinion, starting with the downhill on the boulders with railings. The first half or so seemed very easy and almost leisurely, especially because it was all shaded and very scenic. However, the second half was a gradual uphill walk for what seemed like forever without any shade and a hot sun. We should have packed more then two water bottles! There was one sign on the trail showing us when we had 1/3 or so left to go.
Even though it seems like I didn't enjoy it, I really did! I would do it again next time I'm in Custer. I'll just start the opposite way next time. Giving myself more of a gradual downhill walk in the heat, followed by a cooler and accomplishing end!
One of our families most memorable hikes ever. We went clockwise on this loop trail. The sign there just read Sunday Gulch We thought that since it had Sunday in the title that it would be like a Sunday drive or "Easy Like Sunday Morning". Turns out it was a steep, rocky and wet hike. We also realized that later that 2.8 miles in Custer is not like 2.8 miles in Indiana. Near the end we had and awesome climb up a cascading creek over large boulders. They had much needed railings there to help pull yourself up. Due to the large amounts of melted snow, the steps at the end were a raging waterfall. If we had taken the counter clockwise route we probably would not have done this trail. I'm so glad we did it.
My wife and I hiked this trail last Friday, 10 June. We rate it moderate to strenuous. Hiking/trekking poles are helpful as the trail has some slick rocks and uneven ground. Beautiful views. Glad that we brought a few liters of water as the back side offers little shade.
My 24 year old son and I hiked this on May 26th before the rush of people for memorial day weekend. It was a partly cloudy day and a bit chilly. The trail was well maintained which was greatly appreciated after doing many of the trails in the area (Black Elk Wilderness) where trees were blocking the trails and in 3 days we had to climb over or go around over 100 trees. This trail is strenuous, but was enjoyable. I wish I had brought my trekking poles in some spots. The terrain was varied by section. Apparently we did the trail backward which I recommend. I was happy that I was going up in the boulder/stream area rather than going down it. I was glad we had removed our 30+ pound packs before doing the trail. This is a lovely day hike for anyone in the Sylvan Lake area.
Great hike with lots of different scenery.