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10 Fun Things to Do at Sylvan Lake, SD

Are you planning to visit Sylvan Lake? Here are 10 things to do at the lake that’ll make your stay a lot more memorable.
a man fishing in Sylvan Lake - Custer State Park, South Dakota
Sylvan Lake in South Dakota
Source: unsplash

Nestled within the heart of South Dakota’s Black Hills, Sylvan Lake is more than just a scenic water body – it’s an oasis of adventure and relaxation. 

Often referred to as the “Crown Jewel” of Custer State Park, this lake beckons travelers with its pristine waters and rugged rock formations. 

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or someone just looking for a serene getaway, Sylvan Lake promises a plethora of activities. 

1. Fall in Love with Kayaking

Kayakers Paddling on Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA
Source: dreamstime

With crystal-clear waters surrounded by lush forests and stunning rock formations, Sylvan Lake is a kayaker’s paradise. 

You can rent kayaks right on-site, making it easy for all skill levels to explore. 

Glide peacefully across the serene lake, take in the breathtaking scenery, and maybe even spot some local wildlife. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, Sylvan Lake offers you a fantastic kayaking experience that you won’t want to miss. 

2. Go Swimming

Sylvan Lake in South Dakota is the perfect spot for summer fun! You can swim in its cool, refreshing waters.

The Sylvan Lake Beach is located on the eastern side of the lake.

It gets busy in summer, but there are plenty of places to enter the water if you want to avoid crowds.

The water may be a bit chilly, but that’s what makes the swim so invigorating. 

Whether you’re splashing around in the lake or paddling gently on a boat, Sylvan Lake promises a memorable summer day. 

3. Practice Your Fishing Game

Fishing in Sylvan Lake, South Dakota, USA.
Source: dreamstime

Despite its modest size and summer crowds, Sylvan Lake is a premier fishing spot with excellent reviews.

It’s known for its rainbow and brown trout population and is a well-managed fishery. 

Visitors can cast a line from the shoreline or take advantage of convenient boat ramps and try kayak fishing.

Before you start, don’t forget your fishing license or an annual pass for hassle-free access. 

4. Stay at the Sylvan Lake Lodge

For an unforgettable stay, choose Sylvan Lake Lodge, one of South Dakota’s historic lodges. 

Perfect for special occasions or a peaceful overnight stay, it exudes an air of luxury. 

Ensure you make reservations in advance to secure your spot in this beautiful haven overlooking Sylvan Lake. 

Nestled amidst abundant wildlife and the stunning Black Hills, the lodge offers a unique blend of nature and comfort. 

Explore the beautiful city of Custer by day, and by night, revel in the tranquility and charm of this historic gem.

5. Discover Various Camping Sites

Aside from the popular Sylvan Lake Lodge, there are a number of note-worthy camping sites, scattered across the forest of pine in South Dakota. 

Custer State Park has 9 campground options including its pride and joy – Sylvan Lake Campground, the highest of the lot.

Surrounded by hiking trails, you can explore the natural beauty of the lake by day and then enjoy the perfect summer weekends under the stars at night. 

These campsites offer the convenience of water systems, ensuring a comfortable stay. 

In case you’re pitching a tent or parking your RV, you’ll find the sites well-maintained and welcoming. 

6. Get on Those Local Hikes

Sylvan Lake and surrounding forest in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Source: dreamstime

Sylvan Lake isn’t short of hikes that’ll give you some fantastic views for sightseeing. Here are some of them:

  • Sylvan Lake Shore Trail: This picturesque trail offers a scenic adventure for nature lovers and hikers. As you stroll along the shoreline, you’ll be captivated by the tranquil beauty of Sylvan Lake and its unique rock structures. The trail is perfect for hikers of all levels, making it an ideal family outing or a serene solo walk. 
  • Black Elk Peak Trail: The Black Elk Peak Trail in the Black Hills offers an outdoor adventure through a picturesque hillside forest. Hikers can enjoy stunning views but should bring drinking water and pack lunch. Encounter diverse wildlife on this moderately level hike, making it a memorable South Dakota highpoint experience.
  • Cathedral Spires Trail: If you’re seeking a memorable adventure, this trail is a must-visit. It’s not just a hike; it’s a journey through stunning rock formations and rugged terrain. As you navigate the trail, you’ll be in awe of the majestic Cathedral Spires rising around you, making it a favorite among photographers and nature enthusiasts. 

7. Visit the Iconic Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Source: dreamstime

The iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial is just a short 30-minute drive from Sylvan Lake. 

Adventure guides are available to enhance your experience, ensuring every minute counts on your visit. 

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

8. Explore the Needles Highway

Embark on a thrilling adventure along South Dakota’s renowned Needles Highway

This scenic drive weaves through dramatic rock formations, earning its name from the towering granite “needles” that surround you.

This highway passes by Sylvan Lake and connects numerous landmarks including the famous Needle’s Eye

9. Have Fun Rock Climbing

Just a 15-minute drive from the lake, Sylvan Rocks Climbing School and Guide Service offers an exciting and safe experience for climbers of all ages and skill levels. 

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned climber, their expert guides will ensure a fun and rewarding climb. 

The stunning Black Hills landscape provides a stunning backdrop for your ascent. 

It’s an excellent way to bond with your family while conquering new heights together. 

10. Get a Bird’s Eye View of Black Hills

Soaring above the Black Hills in a hot air balloon is an adventure like no other. 

As you ascend, the panoramic views of the serene landscape below take your breath away. 

The journey culminates in a timeless tradition – a champagne toast, nodding to ballooning’s rich history. 

Whether it’s a bucket list moment or a spontaneous adventure, this experience promises unforgettable memories.

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