Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain” is the Lakota name given to this site. To the Cheyenne, it is “Noahvose.” This geological formation is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. The mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious ceremonies.
A Sacred Mountain
Many American Indians see Bear Butte as a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer. During our visit, we saw many colorful pieces of cloth and small bundles or pouches hanging from the trees. These prayer cloths and tobacco ties represent prayers offered by individuals during their worship. While no one was actively offering prayers during our climb, we admired the ones we saw from a distance and did not disturb these sacred offerings.
The trail is a 1.8 mile one-way excursion up this laccolith that rises 1,253.5 feet above the surrounding plains. The family and I started out on a partly cloudy morning and encountered steep steps, a rocky path and places where you could not tell the trail from the rocky skree on the slopes. The hike to the top was warm and challenging but once at the top, it was totally worth the effort. I had hiked Bear Butte before and was glad that the family and I got to go up to the summit together. Once at the top, you can see why native peoples held Bear Butte in reverence.