A geological wonder looms up from the plains just east of Sturgis. Bear Butte is a laccolith, formed when molten magma solidified then surfaced. The Sioux and Cheyenne still make pilgrimages to the site. Sioux call the mountain Mato Paha or sleeping bear mountain. It's history dates back to the days of fur trading, cavalry, and gold seekers. Early visitors here were Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and General George Custer. Now a Registered National Landmark, the Butte has a visitor center plus camping, hiking, boating, fishing, and swimming facilities.
When: Hiking trails lead to the very top of the Butte. Trails and campgrounds are open year-round. The Visitor Center is open from May through September. Free.
Where: From I-90 and Sturgis take Highway 34 east about five miles, then follow Highway 79 north about five miles further to Bear Butte.
Sidelights: Visit nearby Fort Meade with its cavalry museum and frontier fort grounds. Open daily, June-August. Admission. Located east of Sturgis, off I-90. Hike the 111-mile George S. Mickelson Trail through the Black Hills, from Bear Butte in the north to Wind Cave National Park in the south.