Sylvan Lake
About
This lake, situated within the rolling green hills of Custer State Park, is a great spot for a fun day out. The cool waters of the lake are perfect for kayaking, paddle boating, and swimming, and if you're looking for an adventure, you can go on a hike or climb the rocks surrounding the lake. The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall when the weather is warm, and the park is in full swing. The lake is typically a stop on a tour of Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Custer State Park. – Tripadvisor
Duration: 1-2 hours
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  • TinaF
    9 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    One of the most gorgeous places on earth.
    One of the most beautiful places on earth. Put this one on your bucket list. There's a easy hike around the lake. (Less than a mile; level, smooth trail) A few picnic tables but there's also a gift shop with snacks. Leashed dogs are welcomed. Plan a few hours here (at least).
    Visited September 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 11 September 2023
  • Chandra S
    Texas356 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing Lake and Scenery!!
    Our family of seven (4 generations) from Texas visited Sylvan Lake while in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The lake itself is Gorgeous!! The rocks and mountains as the backdrop are Amazing!! Our grandkids loved climbing on the rocks!! Our family did the hike around the lake and the sign at the beginning says an easy hike. That needs to be updated..the back side is not easy! You have to hike up and over many rocks and stairs. It is an Amazing hike but just should not be classified as “easy”. The views were even more Amazing with the fall colors popping!! Would definitely recommend Sylvan Lake to anyone!!
    Visited September 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 2 October 2023
  • Dave Q
    Minneapolis, Minnesota19 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Little hike around a pristine lake
    We “stumbled “ on this wonderful and scenic lake and trail on our drive around Custer State Park area. It was a wonderful October day. The trail is mostly dirt with some rock surface and a dead end bridge to overlook the dam. Well worth stopping and taking in this trail and lake.
    Visited October 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 21 October 2023
  • Jerrianne W
    Saint Louis, Missouri272 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Fall at Sylvan Lake
    I hiked with the dog around the lake! It was a week day, but there were many hikers as well as a couple busloads of kids from Colorado. Sylvan Lake and the trails near it are what you make them: the hike can be less than an hour just walking around the lake, or you can spend a whole day climbing and exploring!
    Visited October 2023
    Travelled solo
    Written 6 November 2023
  • Kara N
    20 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing!!
    The hike around the lake is really fun and only 1 mile, great for our young kids! The views are all so beautiful and there are a lot of places to stop and look at the views. This is a must when you go to the black hills!
    Visited June 2024
    Travelled with family
    Written 6 June 2024
  • AngelaMB12
    Hanover, Pennsylvania337 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Crowded, but beautiful
    The parking lot, visitor center, and front side of the lake were crowded, but we didn't let that take away from the beautiful lake, rocks, and trees. We did the 1 mile loop hike around the lake and really enjoyed the shade and less people on the furthest part of loop. We even were able to sit and relax on a bench for awhile.
    Visited June 2024
    Travelled with family
    Written 13 June 2024
  • AREIowa
    Sioux City, Iowa68 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Can’ beat the scenery/view!
    We have been to the Black Hills multiple times. This was out second trip to Sylvan Lake. This place is so pretty! On this trip we actually left home a day early just so that we could spend a night here. There is a great hike/walk around the lake. You can fish at the lake. I great stop! I would not recommend staying at the lodge next to the lake, but staying in nearby Hill City.
    Visited June 2024
    Travelled with family
    Written 22 June 2024
  • 484MeganG
    Lake Geneva, Wisconsin107 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Sylvan Lake is a must do- and give it an entire day!
    I took Sylvan Lake for granted. We'd planned a small portion of our day to kayak and maybe do a little hiking. We should've devoted the entire day! We did kayak and canoe! We also hiked. It was too chilly to swim, but had it been warmer, we totally would've. There was so many trails and climbing opportunities. We could've fished, had we planned time for it. Plus theres a great gift shop with snacks on site and plenty of opportunity for picnics. We did rent our kayaks and canoe on site as well. The scenery was beautiful! This is a must do in Custer!
    Visited July 2024
    Travelled with family
    Written 12 July 2024
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

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ShuL-0831123
Pittsburgh, PA328 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2020
This came highly recommended and we were glad we went. We took the nice short walk around either sides of the lake, which I highly recommend as it's a very different view from the two sides. There's an outlook area at the end of the left side. On the right side there are some large boulders that will give you a beautiful view overlooking the lake - also a popular spot for older kids to climb.

We also came across several people fishing. There are trails beyond the immediate lake as well. And if you come during the warmer months, there's a small beach area.

So definitely a must when you visit Custer State Park! And we were able to do the Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour, the Needles Highway and visit Sylvan Lake on the same day.
Written 7 October 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Nyormirror
Bay City, MI1,990 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020 • Family
Sylvan Lake is a great place to hike around, swim, kayak, picnic or just check out the scenery.

It’s right next to a restaurant and general store where you can get boat rentals, food, beverages and souvenirs.

It’s very busy during peak season and parking will get full. It does have picnic areas but I would recommend places like Stockade Lake for a little more tranquility.

Enjoy your time at Custer and make sure this is one of your stops.

Written 18 September 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Frank T
Chicago, IL306 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2020 • Family
Great hike (#9) to Black Elk Peak from the dirt parking lot. Bring lots of water. It's not easy (7 miles round trip with a decent amount of elevation gain) but well worth it when you get to the top. The lake itself is below average for the Black Hills. Not very big, fishing is pretty bad, crowded (at least when we went). But there is a store right there selling all the essentials. 2 of the three cashiers were even wearing coronavius masks to help protect the patrons. That's well above average for South Dakota these days, but I wonder what that third cashier's excuse was since it obviously wasn't peer pressure.
Written 2 August 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

daischop
Chattanooga, TN209 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2020
We were lucky to have arrived at Sylvan Lake fairly early, before most people had left their places they had spent the night. The lake was ours to enjoy without the crowds of people.

It is a truly unique location with the rocks that mirror the lake. The walking trail around the lake it super easy, except for the one location that goes up above the rocks near the dam. We did lose the trail at a time but was super easy to retrieve. This area isn't a good option for those physically impaired. But fortunately the rest of the lake walk is accessible.

It looks like several trails shoot off from this main trail and there are numerous photographic opportunities along the way. As we left, there were a few people enjoying the spenders of the lake as they swam into the waters.

It looks to be a popular fishing location and by the time we made it back to our vehicle, nearly an hour later, the parking lot had filled up quite a bit. From here, we went on our journey up to the Needle's tunnel.

Definitely worth the visit and taking a walk around the lake. A picturesque moment.
Written 21 June 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Marilyn167
Salt Lake City, UT25 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2021
This is a pleasant place for a picnic or short walk around the lake. Be aware that it is part of Custer State Park and you will have to pay the entrance fee. There are kyaks available to take on the lake but you need to bring your own life jackets. There is also a small beach area and the kids who were swimming the day I visited were having a ball.
It is also the starting point of the Black Elk peak trail which some of my party took and they loved it!
Written 22 September 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

angelajod
Kansas City, MO22 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2020 • Family
With an easy trail loop around the lake and more difficult ones available this is the perfect spot for all types of explorers. With our small children (4, 7 & 9) we were able to climb some of the low rocks and go out on the lake in a canoe. The water is beautiful and the views in all directions gorgeous. We stayed in a cabin overlooking the lake which was picture perfect each morning. A fun drive up - be sure to take the Needles drive. We highly recommend!
Written 13 June 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Wendy T
7 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021
This lake has a trail that while one of my favorite hikes ever is, I believe, missed categorized as "Easy". Either direction that you start trail from parking area looks very flat and wide. It's all but paved and as you can see much of the trail all around the lake one might presume (falsely) that it is that way all around. It is steep and a tad dangerous for small kids on the far end. Also, had we not gone during a crowded period I think we might have actually not been able to tell where the trail goes around and through rocks. We had a 4 year old and we didn't feel it safe to let him run ahead or be in front. I would do again but be advised. See pics.
Written 8 July 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

TonyChiro
Denver, CO9 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020
Take a hike around the lake (about 45 minutes) but if you can, take a boat out onto the lake, view the rocks from the water's edge. We have an inflatable tandem kayak that they graciously allow us to use their electricity for our pump. So picturesque that weddings are held here regularly. Secluded swim beach if you want to jump in. This is a MUST for any visit to the Black Hills.
Written 5 September 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Christopher P
Jefferson City, MO264 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2020
Sylvan lake is one of several lakes in Custer State Park and probably the prettiest. There is lots to do in this area, several great hiking trailheads accessible from the parking lot, a nice easy trail around the lake, a general store, picnic areas, etc. The rocks on the far side of the lake are a scrambling/climbing paradise for kids (or adults) who may not be up for the longer trails nearby. If you're passing through and don't have a ton of time, I think this is probably the best "bang for your buck" quick stop in the park. Get there early for some solitude. Not to be missed!
Written 26 September 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

FarmerJane
Lee Vining, CA65 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2020 • Couples
I should have read up on the trail before embarking. The trail is very good if you prepare. I only took a small bottle of water which was the mistake. We we clockwise on the loop which means the challenging granite face is a massive climb at end. Personally I prefer to scramble up slick granite rather than navigate down. So if you don't mind going down slick granite then I recommend doing the loop counterclockwise. The climb out is infinitely more gradual that way.
Written 25 July 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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