Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

Trip Date: Wednesday, September 19th, 2018
Last Updated: Thursday, October 25th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Just outside of the town of Deadwood, you'll find this short, scenic hike to a monument for President Theodore Roosevelt. This is one of those neat attractions that are not as well known yet surprisingly close to heavily touristed areas. Who would have thought there's a castle turret in the hills above an old west town? This is one place in the Black Hills that I would gladly take anyone to again, and not just because I need better pictures (thanks for nothing, fog).

This easy trail starts between the two signs pictured below, where you can learn more about President Roosevelt and his relationship with Deadwood's first sheriff, Seth Bullock. This lifelong friendship greatly contributed to the preservation of the Black Hills area, including the establishment of Devil's Tower National Monument and Wind Cave National Park.

Learn about Teddy Roosevelt and Seth Bullock on the two signs at the trailhead

Learn about Teddy Roosevelt and Seth Bullock on the two signs at the trailhead

The entire route is a lollipop loop, so after hiking uphill for a little, you'll reach a fork in the trail. You can go either direction. I don't remember which way I went first, and the foggy pictures are no help either. On each end of the loop, you'll reach one of two areas where boulder fields blocked tree growth, providing good views either to the east or the south depending on which viewpoint (obviously I can't tell which is pictured below). Signs at the viewpoint will educate you about the Black Hills geography and geology.
On a clear day, there is a good view here

On a clear day, there is a good view here

Eventually after some very mild uphill slopes, you'll reach the main destination, the Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower. Upon Roosevelt's death, Bullock constructed the stone Friendship Tower pictured below using funds from the Society of Black Hills Pioneers and impressively without help from others (nothing takes your mind off your friends death like building a giant tower on a mountain). This tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, and renovated in 2010. Thanks to the structural restoration, you can once again safely climb to the top for excellent views above the tree canopy. Unfortunately, the fog meant I was only able to see the ground below and none of the surrounding topography.
Seth Bullock built this tower by hand to honor his friend Teddy Roosevelt

Seth Bullock built this tower by hand to honor his friend Teddy Roosevelt

Continue the loop to return to the parking area, and you'll pass another viewpoint on a rocky slope. Head back the way you came once the trails converge. I hope you enjoy hiking this piece of history and that your weather cooperates! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!
Another viewpoint ruined by the foggy weather

Another viewpoint ruined by the foggy weather

Important Information

Generally National Forests are less restricting about pets, so you can most likely have your dog off leash on this trail; whether or not that is a good idea depends on how your dog reacts to other people and wildlife or if they're prone to wandering off into places you don't want to follow. As a short hike with a view, an opportunity for a presidential history lesson, and a tower that looks like a castle turret, this is a great trail for kids. You can definitely hike here in the three warmer seasons, but it's unclear whether or not roads are plowed in winter. The paved portion of the roads should be plowed since they lead to a resort and homes, so if the dirt road is snow covered, you can add another 2 or so miles roundtrip and hike to the trailhead. Since the trail is scenic and close to Deadwood, expect to see other people -- despite the gloomy fog, I still saw two groups of hikers on a Wednesday afternoon.

Directions

From Interstate 90 between Spearfish and Sturgis, head south on U.S. Highway 85. Just before Deadwood, turn right on Mount Roosevelt Road -- also the turnoff for The Lodge at Deadwood. After about a mile, turn right onto the dirt road to stay on Mount Roosevelt Road (there should be signs). You missed your turn if you end up in a housing development. The parking lot is another mile or so further on the right side.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There is a pit toilet and picnic area near the lot.

External Links

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