Photos of Lake Morena County Park Hiking Trails

There’s a few different ways to hike Morena Butte, but I like this route best. Follow the loop counterclockwise, use the GPS with this app to avoid getting lost, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so. After reaching the 2nd fork (you’ll see a trail marker that says “Overlook”, turn here), you will begin to ascend as you approach the side of the lake with the dam. As you reach a point roughly parallel to the dam, look for a prominent length of steel cable that leads up the side of the mountain. Follow it. You will scramble and climb a bit up to the top where you’ll rejoin the trail. I wouldn’t call the climbing part dangerous or precarious, just proceed with caution.

As you approach the summit, keep your eyes open for all the cairns (rock stacks), they will help guide you through the dense foliage and ambiguous trail. Once you reach the rocky plateau, take some time to explore each of the high points (you get 3 summits for the price of one). Beautiful views of Lake Morena, as well as Hauser Canyon, Lake Barrett, and Lyons Peak.

Heading down the other side requires some careful navigation, the terrain can be quite disorienting. Just follow the cairns and you’ll be fine. You’ll link up with the PCT briefly, and then onto the road that passes through a meadow right under the mountain. A few dilapidated structures along the way are worth checking out. You eventually rejoin the lake road and then you’re back at the trailhead.

This is a fantastic and not very well known day hike, one of my favorites in eastern SD county. Highly recommend.