An alternative choice to climbing and biking- try climbing within the hills!


CUSTER, SD- Custer’s Sylvan Rocks Climbing School and Guide Service allows climbers of all skill levels to experience Custer State Park from the bottom up.

Brandon Emery, owner and guide of Sylvan Rocks Climbing School and Guide Service, describes the area as “Probably one of the most concentrated crags in the country – very underrated and right in our backyard. So a good way to experience nature and stay active and fit.”

With a variety of adventures to choose from, rock climbing tours are suitable for all ages and skill levels.

“WWe have a four hour introductory climb that is like our group climb. So we bring out new climbers, lots of families, kids, scout groups, everyone just learning the basics of climbing. We also do private six and eight hour climbing tours. You know, this can also be great for beginners who just want more one-on-one lessons and want to spend a little more time climbing. We also do Devil’s Tower packages, so we do two or three day trips where we either climb in Custer for a day or two and then take people to the top of Devil’s Tower,” says Emery.

If you have never climbed, that’s fine! An experienced guide will “show you the ropes”. Emery says that’s what guides are for!

“We teach people how to put on harnesses. They’ve never done it, and at the end of the day we’re standing on a big, cool rock. So it’s great for the general public, no experience required. A lot of times people start thinking maybe I’m not strong enough or whatever – I can’t even do a pull up. Well, that’s okay, you don’t have to be able to do that at all. Climbing is all off our feet, and I’m telling everyone if you can hike to the base, there’s a rock out there… for you.

Certified guides lead the adventures and it is the only guide service in South Dakota accredited by the American Mountain Guides Association.

I never tell people rock climbing is a safe sport. There are always some inherent risks that we cannot control that come with it. However, I feel like we can actually successfully mitigate about 95 percent of the risk,” says Emery.

Climbing adventures offer locals a different take on the park they grew up in.

I think it’s so different than just going on a hike. A lot of these things, even if you spend time hiking and exploring these areas, now suddenly you’re 200 feet above them, looking down from a new perspective and angle that you’ve seen before,” Emery adds .

Also, Emery says the excursions help locals get away from some of the busier areas.

“I also think the cool thing about it is that we’re all really good at getting away from it all on the trails and stuff. It gives you a lot more peace and quiet when we’re out climbing where we’re not with a lot of people right on the main trails,” he says.

More information about Sylvan Rocks Climbing School and Guide Service or to sign up for a climbing tour, click here.