One of the tallest peaks in South Dakota, Terry Peak is best known as a premier destination for winter recreation. Popular with snowboarders and skiers, this attraction sees an abundance of visitors during the colder months. However, during the summer Terry Peak becomes a completely different type of attraction. Visitors come from far and wide to gaze at the views from the summit of the 6th highest peak in the Black Hills.
Standing proud at over 7,000 ft, Terry Peak is magnificent and unique. Like several other peaks in the Black Hills, the summit can be reached by vehicle. We turned off Highway 85 (The CanAm Highway) onto Terry Peak Summit Road, and followed it to the top. It should be noted that this is NOT the road to the ski slopes and lodges. This well-maintained gravel road ascended the mountain, rising above the chairlifts that would be running nonstop during the winter.
At the end of Summit Road were several radio and transmission towers lining a small parking area. A set of steps led up to a lookout tower. A short, gated access road sat next to the stairs.
Wildflowers greeted us as we climbed the staircase to the lookout tower. It was a short and easy walk to the stone building. Atop the tower was a large wooden platform lined with metal railings. We carefully made our way to the very top of the structure.
The northern Black Hills opened up before us. Rolling wooded mountains stretched into the horizon.
Radio towers interrupted the scenery here and there, and blocked the view in places. The workings of the nearby ski resorts were visible below. Beyond that, lovely forested mountains reached into the distance.
The dogs were having a great time atop the platform, looking out at the different vistas.
The views from Terry Peak were interesting. We could see untouched distant hills, but near us were man-made obstructions. The large open pit Wharf Mine was visible from where we were, defiling the forest. However, aside from the various blights on the landscape, the views were great.
We could see the small town of Lead, and Bear Butte towering in the summer haze miles behind it. This was one of the more striking views from the lookout.
The girls and I took in all the sights before us. This was an exceptional way to experience the northern Black Hills.
Beautiful and rugged, these mountains were now in the process of being tamed. Views of human developments were much more prevalent here than they had been from other Black Hills peaks. Here, people were shaping the land to suit their needs in a way that felt perverse. Terry Peak was slightly less endearing than its nearby rivals, but was just as captivating.
Clouds began to gather overhead as time came and went. We slowly made our way around the platform twice. The girls were very interested in the scenery, but after their second tour of the lookout they were ready to head back down.
Once at the bottom of the tower, we decided to take the short access road back to the car. Within minutes we were in our vehicle, ready to find our next adventure.
Even though this spot was remote, it had been easy to get to. A drive through the forest and a brief stair climb were all it took to reach the summit of the Black Hills' 6th highest peak.
Terry Peak was intriguing, but it lacked a certain charm that the other peaks possessed. All the man-made obstructions littering the scenery made this mountaintop feel a little empty. The fulfilling sense of solitude that other summits had was missing. Nonetheless, it had definitely been worth the time and effort to reach the lookout tower. This beautiful and fascinating stop provided an unparalleled view of the northern Black Hills landscape.