Spirit Mound Summit Trail In South Dakota

Here is everything you need to know about the Spirit Mound Summit Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: South Dakota
  • Length: 0.75 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website: https://www.nps.gov/badl/planyourvisit/rankin-ridge-trail.htm

The Spirit Mound Summit Trail holds significant historical importance as it is believed to have been a sacred site for Native American tribes for centuries. Located in present-day South Dakota, this trail was frequented by the indigenous people of the region, particularly the Omaha, Ponca, and Arikara tribes. These tribes considered Spirit Mound to be a place of great spiritual significance and believed it to be inhabited by spirits and supernatural beings.

The first recorded encounter with Spirit Mound by European explorers occurred in 1804 during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with their Corps of Discovery, were intrigued by the stories they had heard from the local tribes about the mysterious mound. They decided to venture to the summit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the spirits that were said to reside there. However, upon reaching the top, they found no supernatural beings but were instead greeted by breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The expedition’s journals described Spirit Mound as a prominent landmark, with its unique geological formation and grassy slopes. Lewis and Clark noted the cultural significance of the site to the Native American tribes and documented their own observations of the area. Their accounts helped to popularize Spirit Mound among future explorers and settlers, who were curious to experience the spiritual aura and natural beauty of the place. Today, the Spirit Mound Summit Trail stands as a testament to the historical and cultural significance it held for both Native American tribes and early European explorers.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Spirit Mound Historic Prairie (starting point)
2. Spirit Mound Summit Trailhead (official trailhead)
3. Spirit Mound Overlook Trailhead
4. Spirit Mound Loop Trailhead
5. Spirit Mound South Trailhead
6. Spirit Mound North Trailhead

Transportation Available

1. Uber – On-demand ridesharing service.
2. Lyft – Ride-hailing service available in the area.
3. Taxi – Traditional taxi service for transportation needs.
4. Rental Car – Car rental service for independent travel.
5. Shuttle Service – Shared transportation service for groups or individuals.
6. Bike Rental – Rent a bike for exploring the area.
7. Public Bus – Local bus service for public transportation.
8. Private Car Service – Hire a private car and driver for personalized transportation.
9. Limousine Service – Luxury transportation service for special occasions.
10. Walking – Explore the area on foot for a more leisurely experience.


The amenities available at the Spirit Mound Summit Trail may vary, but typically include:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available at the trailhead or along the trail. These could be portable toilets or permanent restroom buildings.

2. Parking: There is usually a designated parking area or parking lot near the trailhead where visitors can park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Some trails may have designated camping sites nearby or along the trail. However, it is important to check with the local authorities or park management to confirm if camping is allowed and if any permits or reservations are required.

4. Picnic Areas: There may be designated picnic areas or picnic tables along the trail or near the trailhead. These areas provide a place for visitors to relax, have a meal, or enjoy a picnic.

5. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there may be interpretive signs or information boards that provide educational information about the area’s history, geology, flora, and fauna.

6. Trail Markers: The trail may have markers or signs indicating the trail route, distance, and points of interest. These markers help visitors navigate the trail and stay on the designated path.

7. Benches or Seating: Some trails may have benches or seating areas along the way, providing a place for visitors to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

8. Trash Receptacles: To maintain cleanliness and preserve the natural environment, there may be trash receptacles available at the trailhead or along the trail for visitors to dispose of their waste properly.

It is important to note that the availability of these amenities can vary depending on the specific trail and its location. It is recommended to check with the local park authorities or visit their official website for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the amenities available at the Spirit Mound Summit Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Lodging:
– Spirit Mound Historic Prairie (on-site camping and RV sites available).
– Dakota Sioux Casino & Hotel (approximately 10 miles away, offers hotel accommodations).

2. Food Services:
– No specific food services available on the trail, but nearby options include local restaurants and cafes in Vermillion, South Dakota (approximately 10 miles away).

3. Emergency Services:
– Vermillion Fire & EMS (nearest emergency services provider, approximately 10 miles away).
– Sanford Vermillion Medical Center (nearest hospital, approximately 10 miles away).

Spirit Mound Summit Trail Difficulty Notes

The Spirit Mound Summit Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty for hikers. The trail spans approximately 1.5 miles and features a gradual incline, making it accessible for most fitness levels. However, there are some steeper sections that may require a bit more effort and endurance. Additionally, the trail can be rocky and uneven in certain areas, requiring hikers to watch their footing. Despite these challenges, the reward at the summit is well worth the effort, as it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, making the Spirit Mound Summit Trail a satisfying and enjoyable hiking experience.

Features And Attractions

The Spirit Mound Summit Trail is located in South Dakota, USA, and offers various scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks. Here are some notable attractions along the trail:

1. Spirit Mound: The trail itself leads to the summit of Spirit Mound, which is a prominent landmark in the area. It is a sacred site for the Native American tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, who believe it is inhabited by spirits.

2. Prairie Grasslands: As you hike along the trail, you will be surrounded by vast prairie grasslands, offering breathtaking views of the rolling hills and expansive landscapes.

3. Wildlife: The area is home to diverse wildlife, including deer, coyotes, rabbits, and various bird species. Keep an eye out for these animals as you explore the trail.

4. Historical Significance: Spirit Mound holds historical significance as it was visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. They climbed the mound to get a better view of the surrounding area and document their findings.

5. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, you will find interpretive signs that provide information about the history, geology, and cultural significance of the area. These signs offer educational insights into the region.

6. Birdwatching: The Spirit Mound Summit Trail is an excellent spot for birdwatching. You may spot various species of birds, including hawks, eagles, owls, and songbirds.

7. Sunsets: The summit of Spirit Mound offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside, making it an ideal spot to witness breathtaking sunsets. The changing colors of the sky against the rolling hills create a picturesque scene.

8. Native American Heritage: The trail and Spirit Mound hold great cultural significance for Native American tribes. Visitors can learn about the history, legends, and spiritual beliefs associated with the site.

9. Flora and Fauna: The trail is lined with a variety of native plants and wildflowers, adding to the natural beauty of the area. Take the time to appreciate the diverse flora and the ecosystem it supports.

10. Peaceful Atmosphere: The Spirit Mound Summit Trail offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere, allowing visitors to connect with nature and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.

Remember to respect the site’s cultural and natural significance, follow any trail regulations, and leave no trace behind to preserve the beauty and integrity of the Spirit Mound Summit Trail.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets are allowed on the Spirit Mound Summit Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Visitors are required to stay on designated trails and not venture off the marked path.
– Camping or overnight stays are not permitted on the trail.
– The trail is open year-round, but visitors should be aware of seasonal restrictions such as extreme weather conditions or closures due to maintenance.
– Littering is strictly prohibited, and visitors are expected to carry out any trash they bring in.
– Smoking or open fires are not allowed on the trail.
– Bicycles, motorized vehicles, and horses are not permitted on the Spirit Mound Summit Trail.
– Visitors are encouraged to respect the natural environment and wildlife, refraining from disturbing or feeding any animals encountered.
– It is recommended to bring water, sunscreen, and appropriate footwear for the hike.
– Visitors should be aware that there are no restroom facilities available on the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Spirit Mound Summit Trail, located in South Dakota, offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the historic and cultural significance of the area. When planning your visit, it is important to consider the best times of the year to fully enjoy the trail and any seasonal closures that may affect your experience.

One of the best times to visit the Spirit Mound Summit Trail is during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery, creating a picturesque backdrop for your hike. The weather during this time is generally mild, making it comfortable for outdoor activities. Fall, on the other hand, offers stunning foliage as the leaves change colors, providing a breathtaking view from the summit. The cooler temperatures also make it an ideal time for hiking, allowing you to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

It is important to note that the Spirit Mound Summit Trail is closed during the winter months. South Dakota experiences harsh winter conditions, including heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures, which make the trail unsafe and inaccessible. Therefore, it is advisable to plan your visit between late spring and early fall to ensure the trail is open and accessible.

In addition to seasonal closures, it is also worth considering the time of day to visit the Spirit Mound Summit Trail. Early mornings or late afternoons are often recommended, as the trail can get crowded during peak hours. By visiting during quieter times, you can enjoy a more peaceful and serene experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the natural and historical significance of the area.

Overall, the best times to visit the Spirit Mound Summit Trail are during the spring and fall seasons, when the weather is pleasant and the scenery is at its most beautiful. It is important to check for any seasonal closures and plan your visit accordingly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Spirit Mound Summit Trail is not wheelchair accessible due to its steep and rugged terrain.
2. ADA Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near the trailhead for visitors with disabilities.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are provided at the trailhead for individuals with mobility challenges.
4. Trail Surface: The trail surface consists of natural terrain, including gravel, dirt, and uneven surfaces, which may pose challenges for wheelchair users.
5. Trail Width: The trail width varies throughout the trail, and some sections may not be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
6. Trail Grade: The trail has steep sections with varying grades, making it difficult for individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids.
7. Benches and Rest Areas: Benches and rest areas are available along the trail, providing opportunities for visitors to take breaks and rest.
8. Assistance Animals: Service animals are allowed on the trail to assist individuals with disabilities.
9. Interpretive Signage: The trail features interpretive signage with braille and large print options for individuals with visual impairments.
10. Alternative Experiences: Visitors with mobility challenges can still enjoy the Spirit Mound Summit Trail by accessing virtual tours or audio guides available online.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Spirit Mound Summit Trail is a moderately difficult trail with steep sections and uneven terrain, requiring proper hiking footwear and physical fitness.
2. Weather Conditions: Check the weather forecast before starting the hike and be prepared for sudden changes, as the trail is exposed and can be affected by strong winds.
3. Sun Protection: Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, as there is limited shade along the trail.
4. Water Availability: Carry an adequate amount of water, as there are no water sources along the trail, and stay hydrated throughout the hike.
5. Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent to protect yourself from ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects that may be present in the area.
6. Trail Markings: Pay attention to trail markers and follow the designated path to avoid getting lost, as the trail can be confusing at times.
7. Wildlife Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings and respect the wildlife, keeping a safe distance and avoiding any interactions or disturbances.
8. Hiking in Groups: It is recommended to hike with a partner or in a group for safety purposes, especially in remote areas.
9. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a fully charged cell phone, a first aid kit, and a whistle in case of emergencies, and inform someone about your hiking plans.
10. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, staying on the designated trail, and respecting the natural environment.

Conservation Notes

The Spirit Mound Summit Trail, located in South Dakota, holds a conservation status that aims to protect and preserve its unique ecological features. The trail is designated as a protected area due to its significance in terms of biodiversity and cultural heritage. Efforts have been made to ensure the conservation of the trail’s natural resources and maintain its ecological integrity.

The conservation status of the Spirit Mound Summit Trail is primarily focused on preserving the diverse plant and animal species that inhabit the area. The trail is home to a variety of native flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species. Conservation measures are implemented to safeguard their habitats and maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystem. This includes monitoring and managing invasive species, protecting sensitive areas from human disturbance, and promoting sustainable practices among visitors.

Furthermore, the conservation status of the Spirit Mound Summit Trail also extends to its cultural significance. The trail holds great historical and spiritual importance to Native American tribes in the region. Conservation efforts aim to protect and respect the cultural heritage associated with the trail, ensuring that it remains a place of reverence and understanding. This involves educating visitors about the cultural significance of the trail and promoting responsible and respectful behavior while exploring the area.

Overall, the conservation status of the Spirit Mound Summit Trail reflects the commitment to preserving its ecological and cultural value. Through various conservation measures, the trail’s unique biodiversity and historical significance are safeguarded, allowing future generations to appreciate and learn from this remarkable natural resource.

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