Sunday Gulch Trail is a 3.9 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near East Custer, South Dakota that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
3.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
797 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

hiking

nature trips

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

rocky

scramble

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.

20 days ago

Favorite hike I’ve done in the Black Hills, hands down.

hiking
27 days ago

I definitely didn’t know what to expect after reading numerous reviews... but I loved it! I wouldn’t consider myself super in shape and it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes and a solid 30 minutes of that was time stopping to take photos, collect rocks, etc. I took 20 oz. of water and some jerky for some refueling along the way (because it was HOT!) I didn’t expect as much roadside noise as there was at the mid-way point but it wasn’t horrible. I started clockwise simply because I’d rather climb huge rocks at the end than jump down them at the beginning.

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike, beautiful views. It took us a full 3 hours. We are "moderate" trail hikers, and on another website, this trail was rated "moderate." Most of it is! We went clockwise. The bouldering at the end, after a full hike, and with an unpredictable right knee, busted me. It was the most physically strenuous "hiking" I've ever done. I don't think I'd do this again. The road noise mid-point was somewhat distracting.

1 month ago

Totally agree with other reviews. It was challenging and picturesque. Recommend heading to left, north, from sylvan lake. That saves awesome climb for the finish. Was a fantastic, kinda strenuous 3 hours.

trail running
1 month ago

My favorite trail. Ever. I go clockwise on this loop to avoid a steep descent and look forward to the steep ascent at the end. Your legs and lungs will be challenged.
Adding about a half mile round trip from the parking lot to/from the trail head, I’ll run/hike this in about 56 minutes. The terrain is varied and rugged with spectacular views. I prefer to go light and fast with no water, no pack, but make sure to hydrate just enough before beginning the run. This trail alone is worth investing in high end trail running shoes.

hiking
1 month ago

excellent trail. something for everyone.

1 month ago

great little hike. Best taken counter-clockwise because the "stairs" along the boulders are pretty steep. beautiful setting at Sylvan Lake.

hiking
1 month ago

This is a great hike. Being from Colorado I'm used to having steep inclines and dodgy terrain so this felt like home! We decided to go counter clockwise because hitting the boulders at the end would have been a bit much after so much climbing already. However it's probably a coin toss if you would rather have a very long stretch of steady uphill (counter clockwise) or mostly downhill with some major climbing at the end (clockwise). Either way you climb a mountain.

Great trail and some really breathtaking views.

One thing to be aware of is that this is IN Custer Park so you'll have to pay $25 to get to the trail head.

You can see my track for this hike, we completed it in about 2 hours with 30 minutes extra for taking pictures or quick water breaks.

1 month ago

Lovely hike. My 7 and 9y/o’s did fine, the little one needed a bit of help on the bouldering/handrail section. We started left, which I recommend to save the best part of the hike for last. Took us a leisurely 3+ hours.

hiking
1 month ago

I'm an avid hiker and this was a beautiful trail took about 3 hrs while taking time to climb rocks and going off the path a little. I did it counter clockwise where you start all downhill at first and that seemed easier. I'd suggest next time to do it clockwise if you don't mind the extra work. Definitely worth the hike, very fun with all the handrails and rock steps.

hiking
1 month ago

This hike is beautiful! It is very strenuous...wear good hiking shoes or sandals. My little 10# yorkie handled this hike with no problem..I helped him twice. I found for my own safety it was better to take him off the leash on the boulder sections. There were some very steep inclines that were rocky and lots of tree roots. Have fun...stay safe...pack in and pack out.

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing trail. Spectacular views and we loved climbing up the waterfall. We chose to go to the left once we got to the turn off past Sylvan Lake. We started from the store. It was moderately strenuous but interesting changes of terrain. Our 5 kids enjoyed it as well- aged 3-15. If your child is use to hiking they will be fine, just take plenty of water and snacks and plan on stopping for breaks. The 3 year was even able to complete it, including the waterfall climb but he’s been out with us a lot. It took us almost exactly 4 hours.

1 month ago

Love this hike with the waterfalls and staircases.

hiking
1 month ago

We went counter clock-wise starting from the parking lot meaning we went down the gulch portion. Fun trail but we picked a bad time to go, during a flash flood watch! And with about 2 miles left, the skies opened, the marble-sized hail fell and the lightning flashed. Poor decision on our part but other than that we liked the trail. Be careful on the railed portion though. Those rocks are slippery! USE THE HANDRAILS...that's what they're there for! Not much to see on the northern most portion but it gets scenic after that as you climb back up out of the gulch.

1 month ago

Beautiful hike! One of our favorites! It was difficult in some sections. I would not recommend bringing small children.

hiking
2 months ago

I dont normally leave reviews, but I felt like I could clear up a few pieces of information.....

the trailhead is behind sylvan lake. You park in the main lot close to harney peak trailhead and go to the right of the lake. you can also get there from general store lot. you will see an obvious sign labelled Sunday Gulch Trail right at the Dam.

At this sign you got two options, 1)go to the left (clockwise) 2) go to the right (counter-clockwise)

we chose to the left. this will be uphill for the first mile or so and downhill most of the rest. Ending with going up a waterfall....a big long waterfall. I think it's easier to go up it than down it.

if you choose to go to the right instead, you will start right away going down this waterfall, which is more difficult, but you will have more energy to complete it.

Dont bring your 20+ week pregnant wife, she will be pissed about the waterfall...trust me! saw young kids complete it, but most of them seemed experienced. You're gonna get wet and maybe muddy. Overall I loved this hike! my wife did too, but she would of preferred doing it without being prego.

2 months ago

takes a bit, and the trail markings aren't the best in spots. not best for kids under 7 but beautiful!

hiking
2 months ago

Stunning trail! I’m very uncoordinated, so the boulders near the water gave me some issues, but there are plenty of handrails to hold onto. Many water crossings and great views. Variations in terrain make this trail a lot of fun.

2 months ago

Only 2.8 miles even says that at the trail head and is listed as strenuous. A good trail did it counter clockwise and that is definitely the more difficult way. Not a good trail if you have little ones and dogs should NOT be allowed!

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful scenery; hands down one of my favorite trails in South Dakota!

2 months ago

Challenging but worth it!

hiking
2 months ago

First, let me say that I consider myself a novice hiker. The types of hiking I normally enjoy are easy and very flat. I am also going to admit that I am 100 lbs overweight as well. Needless, to say I was more than a little concerned about whether or not I could complete this hike and the closer we got to the day we were to go, the more unsure I became.

My husband and my son both were looking forward to it and said that didn't want to do it without me. In hindsight I suppose I was taking a big risk in choosing to do this hike, but my husband said we would stop as many times as we needed to and take as much time as we needed. So, they convinced me.

I had done some research on this trail beforehand and looked at a lot of pictures as well. I have to say that it really did look intriguing. We have a medium sized dog, she weighs about 50 lbs that would be going with us and after reading several reviews by other people who had taken dogs on this hike, I decided we should go counter-clockwise around, starting with the boulders first. I figured it would be a lot easier, for me at least, and for our dog as well, to climb DOWN the boulders instead of up.

It was somewhat confusing at first trying to figure out which way to go because the actual signs for the trail point to the LEFT, but if you go to the left you will be doing the trail CLOCKWISE, which is fine, if you want to be climbing UP a bunch a boulders after you have already hiked 3 miles. We finally figured out we needed to go to the right to begin the trail when we went down some steps and around a corner where we found a posted map of the hike.

So, on to the hike! Going down the boulders was actually pretty fun! There were areas where we had to step in or wade through some running water. After climbing down all of the boulders, the hike wound around the gulch and was very scenic with a lot of rock formations, trees, running water and even a cave! At one point there was a steep set of stairs we had to climb down, so if you are going clockwise, you will have to go UP these stairs.

Eventually, what go goes down, must go up and so did we. This is when it started to get pretty difficult for me. I had to stop A LOT but my husband and my son were very patient and waited for me until I could continue. I did reach a point when it was no longer fun, I was exhausted and wanted it to be over. My son noticed that we were very close to the road. He said maybe he and I should hike up to the road and wait for my husband to go back to the car and then pick us up on the side of the road. Bless his heart,. I should have done as he suggested, but no, I didn't want to be a quitter, so I went on. Little did I know at the time that we still had about an hour to go.

I am happy to say, however, that I MADE IT!!! It took us about 4 hours to complete. My husband and my son were proud of me and I was even pretty proud of myself! My legs were very sore for the next few days, so needless to say, this was the only hike we did while we were in the Black Hills. I read one review that actually said, "if you only have time for 1 hike, do this one", so I did and I am glad I did.

Next time we go to the Black Hills, I will be have lost weight and be in better shape so that I can do some of the other hikes too! :)

2 months ago

Fabulous trail. So much diversity. Great vistas, thick forest, bouldering, lots of water, wild raspberries everywhere. Be prepared to get your feet very wet. Wear water shoes and enjoy the walk.

3 months ago

Awesome trail, well marked. We went clockwise so we ended up at the gorge with the water really flowing over the trail and steps due to the heavy rain the night before. If you don’t mind wet feet it was a blast. With going clockwise you are almost to the end so we didn’t to walk with wet shoes long. Wife and and I are 63 it took us about 3 hours.

hiking
3 months ago

Neat trail for the diversity. Half of the trail is intertwined with a stream. A 1/4 is wooded trail and the last 1/4 is exposed hillside.

Waterproof shoes or sandals are highly recommended. Regular shoes will get wet and you’ll have to cope with soggy feet for the remainder.

I did have to carry our dog for one or two portions of the stream, otherwise very dog friendly.

You can hear passing traffic for a portion of the trail detracting from the experience.

walking
3 months ago

I go to the Black Hills every year so I am on a mission to find the best trails to go on with my German Shepherd.
This one was an amazing trail if you wanted to do it by yourself, with no dogs. If you start the trail counter clockwise, that would be the safest bet for your doggie friend, if you were to go clockwise, you would have to end up helping carrying your dog up the water section. The rocks were very slippery so your dog would have to be great on his feet. After you get past that, it’s smooth sailing from there and you can enjoy a nice trail.

3 months ago

we loved this hike! so much variety! not too long but still challenging. we did the hike clockwise and were happy we did because the best scenery was at the end portion so it was a great way to end the hike with a bang.

3 months ago

Amazing views

hiking
3 months ago

One of my favorite black hills hikes. Not too long, but easy to get to TH, beautiful scenery, a bit of bouldering, family can handle it, AND who doesn't like waterfalls

hiking
3 months ago

I thought this was a very challenging hike for the first mile. I started at the gulch with the water running over the steps and big boulders. I am glad they put the handrails, they sure came in handy. I truly enjoyed this hike and the challenges it provided, once you get through the water streams it gets easier.

Load More