Iron Mountain Picnic

The Needles of Rushmore


This is a more modern area; development started in the mid 80’s but really flourished at the turn of the millennium. This area was part of the 2002 wilderness annexation which added acreage to the Black Elk Wilderness, upon the abolishment of the Beaver Park Wilderness Area near Sturgis. It was originally in the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. It hosts a handful of excellent sport climbs in addition to its traditional routes. Within this area are two sub-areas (New Domensions and The Big Gash). The Big Gash can offer an escape from the high temperatures through its enchanted fern gully, which is highly fragile and requires the utmost attention to be preserved. Please refrain from bringing pets into The Big Gash to preserve its precious beauty. This area is located in the Black Elk Wilderness, offering absolutely no crowds due to its strenuous 20-30 min approach. The USDA-Forest Service references the major formation as Turtle Rock; a major, granite, dome uplift with a narrow, fern-filled corridor down the middle of its shell. However, most recognize it by the name Herb and Jan Conn assigned it when they first visited the crack in the shell in the 1950’s referring to it as “The Big Gash”. Standing at the SE exit of The Big Gash is the beautiful summit of Porgie (which forms the turtle’s head of Turtle Rock). Porgie was first ascended by the Conns in 1957. From Keystone, SD continue W on US-16 Alt W/US-16 toward Mt. Rushmore entrance. Take a left on Iron Mountain Road/ Scenic U.S. Highway 16A W. Follow the road for 3.3 miles to the signed Iron Mountain Picnic Area. Park at the picnic area pullout. Follow the Centennial Trail Bypass (Trail #89) for .47 miles into the Black Elk Wilderness. Staying on Trail #89 approx 800’ past the intersection with Iron Mountain Trail #16 that heads S. Look for a very faint climbers’ trail (GPS N43.852016° W-103.445512°) that exits to the SW of Trail #89. Follow the climbers’ path for 550’ to the first major rock outcropping (New Domensions) (GPS N43.851114°W-103.446974°) located 100’ S of the path. For The Gash, continue on the path to down the slope and up the big hill to the top of The Gash (GPS N43.848383°W-103.448792°) (.35 miles from Trail #89). (Be sure to obtain a wilderness permit at the trailhead!)

  • < 5.9
  • 10a - 10d
  • 11a - 11d
  • 12a - 12d
  • 13a >
  • Entry-Way Corridor
    1 0 1 1 0
  • Main Domension (Big Dome)
    0 4 1 0 0
  • Smaller Domensions
    5 2 2 0 0
  • Turtle Rock (The Big Gash) Right side
    2 1 10 4 0
  • Turtle Rock (The Big Gash) Left side
    6 4 8 3 0

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