The beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota are home to numerous mountains, but only 8 of them stand at 7,000 ft tall or more. We set out to explore the 5th highest peak -Crooks Tower. While the name itself implies a lookout tower, Crooks Tower is actually the name of the large rock formation that makes up the summit. West of Black Fox Campground and northwest of Flag Mountain, Crooks Tower rises 7,137 ft above sea level.
We found ourselves deep in the woods, in an area that can be difficult to navigate without the help of a Forest Service map. We made our way south on USFS Road 189.4 and stopped when we reached the start of USFS 189.4A.
Colorful wildflowers bloomed around us. We left the car at the start of USFS 189.4A, which was a rough gravel road. We set off on foot along the worn path as it slowly gained elevation, taking us farther into the forest.
The road was rocky but easy to follow. We passed by large mushrooms growing on the trunks of trees in the dense woodlands.
After a short distance we neared the Crooks Tower formation. An unmarked but well-distinguished trail led away from the road and up to the summit. It was an easy and extremely short climb to the top.
The summit was fairly large, with a lot of room to move around. We could see forested hills reaching far into the distance. We took in the lovely views; all around us were beautiful vistas.
It was enchanting atop the mountain; green forests spread out in all directions. Wooded hills rolled off into distant horizons.
We sat together and enjoyed a water and treat break while taking in our fantastic surroundings. We could see the dirt road below us and could hear ATVs making their way through the forest nearby. This was a great place to absorb the scenery of the lovely Black Hills.
It was a wonderful spot to let time pass by as we looked out from the stone plateau. The girls greatly enjoyed the views and frequently paused to gaze off into the distance.
We hung out on top of Crooks Tower until the girls were ready to leave. This was a fantastic place to visit, but after a while the dogs were growing restless and wanted to keep exploring.
At the base of the formation we rejoined the dirt road. It continued on past the summit, and led into the welcoming evergreen forest. The dogs indicated that they'd like to keep going. The hike up to Crooks Tower had been fairly short, so it wasn't unusual that the girls still had energy to burn.
Dark clouds were gathering in the distance, but they weren't anything to worry about yet. We followed the wide gravel path through the wilderness. It was a charming stroll along the wooded road, secluded deep in the forest.
We passed old trees and young, open pastures, and dense forest. The road led mostly downhill and away from Crooks Tower, in a generally southeastern direction.
We hiked along USFS 189.4A for at least a mile before the girls were ready for a water break. We stopped off to the side of the road for a rest. The clouds were gathering and the humidity was growing thicker. When we had originally started along 189.4A the sign had indicated that this road came to a dead end. But we didn't know how much farther it went, or what it led to. We decided our best course of action might be to turn around where we were and start the hike back to the car.
The sun appeared through a gap in the clouds as we trekked through the woods, retracing our route back towards the start of 189.4A. It was a delightful walk, and we stopped frequently so the dogs could sniff everything along the way.
We never did find out where the road ended, but we had a fabulous time nonetheless. This had been a wonderful afternoon spent deep in the Black Hills National Forest.
The hike wasn't strenuous, and the walk up to the summit was fairly short. After that, the adventure could easily be tailored into a longer excursion.
The dogs and I had a great time; the trek was fun, the scenery was gorgeous, and it had required a pleasant drive through the forest to reach our destination. Crooks Tower dominated a remote and beautiful section of the Black Hills, and it had definitely been worth the effort to find it.