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Top 10 Photos from Black Hills, South Dakota

AND where they were taken with my Samsung S21 Ultra phone!

We headed to South Dakota on a 4 day road trip and saw some amazing views and captured some great pics. Here are 10 of my favorite images from this trip in the Black Hills area from my phone.

Cathedral Spires

Cathedral Spires on the Needles highway in custer state park

This was taken toward the end of the trail to the Cathedral Spires where they surround you. The whole trail was filled with picture opportunities and depending on the time of day and where the sun is you can capture some beautiful shadows on the spires. I’ve heard there are a lot of mountain goat sightings as well. We were not lucky enough that day but we had other cool views like some people rock climbing (see pic at end). There’s a neat part of the trail that has stepping stones which offers a great pic too (see pic at end). We only intended to go on the trail for a little bit but ended up doing the whole thing so plan to walk a bit to get to the area where you have 360 views of the spires.

Mount Roosevelt

mount roosevelt in deadwood south dakota

I don’t think many people visit here but they are missing out. The road isn’t the greatest to get there but the trail and views are amazing. I think we hit the fall colors at just the right time for this area because the yellows were so golden. I snapped quite a few favorites (see pics at end) and I think being there around sunset time helped to bring out the golden fall colors.

Mount Roosevelt Overlook

overlook at mount roosevelt in south dakota near deadwood

When going to Mount Roosevelt and the Friendship Tower I didn’t know that this area (Belle Fourche in particular) was the geological center of the Nation. When we were at the overlook they had a sign explaining this which was pretty cool. I love when you go somewhere and you find out something unexpected about the location. We stayed until sunset which was quite cold with the wind and when the sun went down it was bone chilling cold. We did get some cool shots of the Black Hills though so it was worth the cold (see pic at end).

Friendship Tower View

tower window view in the fall at friendship tower in south dakota near deadwood

The Friendship tower is located 2.5 miles from Deadwood on a dirt road. The tower and overlook is less than a mile from the trailhead which has a bathroom and picnic area. The friendship tower was created by Seth Bullock (Deadwood’s first sheriff) in memory of the friendship he had with Teddy Roosevelt. The tower had some amazing views and you can see a lot of familiar places like Bear butte and the town of Belle Fourche. This picture is taken from atop the tower looking toward the trail to the parking lot. Click HERE for more information on the tower.

Sylvan Lake at Sunset

Sylvan Lake sunset in Custer State Park in South Dakota

We decided to drive around Custer during the day and visit the Needles highway, wildlife loop drive and Cathedral Spires. We ended our day at Sylvan Lake and I’m glad we did because this lake is gorgeous. The colors at sunset were soft pinks, yellows and purples. The colors got better and better as we got closer to the sunset. This picture was taken at the peak colors that took over the entire scene and made the rocks so warm and colorful.

Rocks at Sylvan Lake

rock formations at sylvan lake in custer state park in south dakota black hills

The rock formations at Sylvan Lake are so unique and make for a dynamic scene with the lake. We were here in the fall so it wasn’t as busy and there were no water activities happening as the temperature was a bit chilly. Time of day can really make a difference in what the formations look like. In full sun I imagine they would look fairly washed out but early in the day or late in the day you can capture more of the detail in the rocks. It was also calm that evening so the reflections were stunning (see pic at end).

Needles Highway

needles highway in the black hills of south dakota

I loved this drive! Every turn had such beautiful rock formations and it was even better with all the fall colors mixed in. I drove past this scene and then had to turn around and find a place to park because I loved the rocks, evergreen trees and bright yellow trees together. I’m happy with the result but I think it would have been an even stronger picture earlier or later in the day. I also snapped a pic of my car in one of the shots and it looked like the perfect car commercial (see pic at end).

Legion Lake

legion lake in custer state park south dakota

As a photographer you know that the best light for photography is around sunrise and sunset so when you visit a place in the middle of the day it’s harder to capture the true beauty and the best light, colors, shadows, etc. We stopped at this lake in the middle of the afternoon but I loved how the light was hitting these 3 trees and the huge rock face behind it was dark. The water was glistening from the sun and it was such a beautiful scene. We ended up having a picnic lunch here and it offered a peaceful lake view. There is a lodge where you can get some food and souvenirs too.

Spearfish Falls Trail

spearfish canyon falls trail in south dakota

On our way to Spearfish Falls the sun was creating neat shadows in this patch of the trail with evergreens. You wouldn’t have seen this at a different time of day so it was fun to capture. It's a great spot to add a person in the scene which we did (see pic below). This again was closer to the middle of the day so we had to be more creative in the scenes we captured. When traveling it’s hard to visit everything at sunset and sunrise so being creative with the light you are given is part of the fun.

Spearfish Canyon

green water plants in spearfish canyon at roughlock falls in south dakota

We stopped in spearfish canyon and it was funny because the fall colors were beautiful everywhere except for here. I guess it was windy and hailed the weekend before we got there which wiped out a lot of the leaves in this area. We stopped at this pond near Roughlock Falls and the green plants in the water were this brilliant bright green and it was so pretty. There was a bridge you could walk out on and the water was flowing underneath it which created this movement of the plants.


We took a lot of amazing photos and I liked different photos for different reasons. There are so many opportunities to capture great photographs that you could spend several days in the Black Hills and see something different around every corner. If you want to see my favorite photos from my Sony a6400 camera I will have those here. Below are some of the photos that were mentioned above.


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