2016-09-26. Sylvan Lake, Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and Black Elk Wilderness (Black Hills National Forest)
I know that I have said this before, but this part of South Dakota is simply awe inspiring; from the needles and its namesake Needles Highway, to Sylvan Lake to the Black Hills prairie, the area is a study in contrasts each with its own stunning beauty.
The area that surrounds Custer State Park is part of the national forest system including the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and the Black Elk Wilderness in the Black Hills National Forest. Interspersed in the wilderness area are jewel-like lakes and dramatic vistas. Our friends Angie and Dave had spent a lot of time here scoping out the kayaking spots so today, we went with them in search of the perfect launch spot since it is supposed to get warmer here during the week. Today, the sun was brilliant highlighting the gold of the quaking aspens but there was a cool, strong wind which made it a little dicey for paddling. However, we had a lovely hike around Sylvan Lake and checked out Kincaid, Sheridan and Stockade Lakes. Sylvan Lake is man made but framed by enormous granite spires dramatic in their formation. The hike around the lake is wonderful if easy affording spectacular up close views of towering monoliths. We ate lunch in the Sylvan Lake Lodge, a hotel reminiscent of the ones built in the 30’s that grace Yellowstone and many of the other iconic national parks. There was a lovely bar/lounge area supervised by the stuffed game animals such as the mountain goat, buffalo and antelope (naturally). The food left a little to be desired but the location was certainly nice.