Known as the crown jewel of Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake offers views of the Black Hills that showcase the sweeping pine forest as a backdrop for dramatic rocky outcroppings along the lakeshore. Created in 1881 when Theodore Reder built a dam across Sunday Gulch, the lake offers swimming, paddle boating, fishing, and picnicking, along with access to rock climbing and hiking trails. The lake sits at the base of Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains; you can use it as a starting point for excursions to the peak and the park's drive along The Needles highway. Film fans may recognize the site, which was featured in the 2007 movie "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." Plan your visit to Sylvan Lake and a wealth of other attractions, well-known and undiscovered, using our Custer vacation planner.
Sylvan Lake Reviews
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... more »
While one of my boys went off for a hike the rest of us enjoyed an afternoon at the lake. Peaceful, quiet, and lovely. The other two boys rented Kayaks and enjoyed cruising around the lake. The... more »
A beautiful setting. We had a great day climbing and hiking and swimming.
Great lake for the family! Bathrooms, grills around the lake, great fishing from shore, and a clean beach.
Plan your trip to Custer
Get a personalized planA complete day-by-day itinerary
based on your preferences
Customize itRefine your plan. We'll find the
best routes and schedules
Manage itEverything in one place.
Everyone on the same page.
See all ›
Side trips from Custer
See all ›
Hidden gems in Custer
Nearby attractions in Custer
Plans to Sylvan Lake by other users
2 days in Rapid City BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES September, culture, outdoors, historic sites, museums, wildlife, fast-paced, popular sights Preferences: September, culture, outdoors, historic sites, museums, wildlife Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Fast-paced 60 days in Midwest BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES September, popular sights Preferences: September Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 4 days in Deadwood BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES September, teens, popular sights Preferences: September, teens Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 16 days in Midwest BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, slow & easy, popular & hidden gems Preferences: August Attraction style: Popular & hidden gems Pace: Slow & easy 8 days in Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park & Black Hills & Badlands BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, teens, kids, popular sights Preferences: August, teens, kids Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 10 days in Keystone, Yellowstone National Park & Jackson Hole BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, teens, popular sights Preferences: August, teens Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium