Rocky Mountain Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Botrychium sp. Photo by Andrew Korth.
Dodecatheon pulchellum. Photo by Andrew Korth.
View from the top of Hat Mountain looking north. Photo by Kelly Warnke.
View from the top of Hat Mountain looking south. Photo by Kelly Warnke.
Mertensia lanceolata. Photo by Andrew Korth.
Forest: Black Hills National Forest
District: Mystic District
Description: The Black Hills, commonly referred to as “an island in the plains,” receives its name from its most prominent feature, the ponderosa pine covered peaks that appear black from a distance. Nevertheless, nestled within the peaks and valleys of the Black Hills, visitors can find small enclaves of mixed grass prairie. Hat Mountain is one such area that stands bare among the surrounding tree covered peaks. The calcium rich, rocky soils support a diverse mixture of wildflowers that are characteristic of lower elevation grasslands. The flat topped summit rises nearly 6,800 feet along the limestone ridge of the western Black Hills and offers panoramic views of Deerfield Lake and Harney Peak, the highest point in the Black Hills. Considered to be a sacred site by the Lakota people, Hat Mountain has been admired by humans for thousands of years. Recent efforts, including prescribed fire and trail rehabilitation have aimed to restore this area to a more natural condition so it can be enjoyed by visitors for many more years to come. Please be respectful of this unique site by keeping vehicles on designated roads and trails, and leaving no trace.
Viewing information: The best way to view wildflowers is to walk up the southeastern slope of Hat Mountain. Although the terrain can be steep, the views from the top are well worth the effort. The area offers wildflower-viewing opportunities from late May through August depending on snowmelt. Spring wildflowers include goldenpea (Thermopsis rhombifolia), prairie bluebells (Mertensia lanceolata), star lily (Leucocrinum montanum), leafy phlox (Phlox alyssifolia), threadleaf musineon (Musineon tenuifolium), and darkthroat shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum). Visitors who do not mind crawling on their hands and knees can even find moonworts (Botrychium spp.) in May and June at the base of the mountain. In the summer months, visitors are likely to see beardtongue (Penstemon spp.), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), hairy false goldenaster (Heterotheca villosa), wild blue flax (Linum lewisii), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), stemless hymenoxys (Tetraneuris acaulis), and goldenrod (Solidago sp.) Common native grass species include junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea), green needlegrass (Nassela viridula) and sun sedge (Carex inops).
Safety First: Rapid weather changes can occur year-round. Be prepared for quickly developing thunderstorms in June, July, and August. These storms often bring hail, lightening and very strong winds. While driving to Hat Mountain, be cautious of dead trees that could damage vehicles or block the roadway. There are no facilities at Hat Mountain so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Summer temperatures can reach 90 to 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. Cell phones have poor coverage in this area so hike with a friend or if hiking alone let someone know your location and estimated time of return.
Directions: From Hill City, South Dakota, take Deerfield Road/County Road 308 drive northwest approximately 15.5 miles. Take a left onto Williams Draw Road/National Forest System Road (NFSR) 691 until you reach the junction with Forest Service trail number 6071 (approximately 0.9 miles). Travel on Forest Service trail number 6071 requires a trail permit (trail permits can be obtained at any Black Hills National Forest office).
- If you have a trail permit: Take a left onto Forest Service trail number 6071 and follow for approximately 1 mile.
- If you do not have a trail permit: Continue on Williams Draw Rd until the junction of Williams Draw Rd and Forest Service trail number 6071 (approximately 0.9 miles). Park vehicle and walk due west for 0.5 miles.
Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Black Hills National Forest, Mystic Ranger District, Rapid City, South Dakota. Phone (605) 343-1567.
Closest Town: Hill City, South Dakota.