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Hiking Spearfish Canyon

photo community caves spearfish canyon

The hiking options almost seem endless in Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  There are several pullouts along the 22 mile long Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.  You can just pull over and get out and explore the canyon.  Most of the canyon is public land – part of the Black Hills National Forest – just watch for the occasional no trespassing sign.

 

Popular Hikes

– the distance noted is measured from the turn off Colorado Blvd onto the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and are approximate.




 

Community Cavesalso called Bobcat caverns – can be found just 2.7 miles into the canyon.  I love this hike year round.

Climbing to Community Caves in the winter can be a challenge.   You don’t really need any rock climbing skills, but the trail is steep and slippery.  I’d recommend wearing some Kahtoola MICROspikes – with these on your feet you trot up the trail like a mountain goat.   Your reward will be the amazing frozen waterfalls, a fantastic sight.

In the summer, the caves are a totally different experience.  The frozen waterfalls are melted and there is just a trickle of water coming down.  It is still a breathtaking sight.  Check out my video of the Community Caves frozen waterfall.

Devils Bathtubpossibly the most popular hike in the canyonphoto Devils Bathtub Spearfish Canyon

You’ll find the small gravel parking lot on Cleopatra Place, about 7.8 miles into the canyon.  This is my favorite hot day hike.  The unmarked trail follows the stream up to some natural pools (or bathtubs) carved into the limestone.  The rock formations are impressive all the way up, if you only do one hike in the canyon – do this one.  Read my hiking devil’s bathtub post for complete directions.

Iron Creekaccessible to most, gorgeous for all

This hike is natural beauty turned up to 11 from the start, you’ll find it 11.4 miles into the canyon.  It follows the creek up this small canyon, great for hikers or mountain bikers.  The water pours over the rocks in the stream creating great places to sit by the stream and enjoy the sound of rushing water.  In the spring and summer there are wild flowers all long the trail.  And, don’t forget snowshoeing Iron Creek is a great winter hike.





11th Hour Gulchif you aren’t watching you’ll drive right past

This is a unique crack in the earth.  It is 9.4 miles into the canyon, near kissing rocks.  It is name the eleventh hour gulch, because it is so narrow it is said to only get one hour of sunlight per day.  This isn’t so much a hike as a chance to climb around on some rocks in a really cool place.


Savoy several options from here – 13 miles into the canyon

76 Trail – a great hike that will take you to the top of the canyon.  The trail is only 3/4 mile long, but there is a 1000 feet gain in elevation.  This will get your heart pumping.

Little Spearfish Falls just behind the Latchstring Inn, this is a short hike with a big reward.  A great waterfall, see video of Little Spearfish Falls in the fall and winter, on this short hike.  There are signs describing the flora and fauna of the canyon floor.  This is also a favorite hike among Spearfish Canyon visitors and locals.

Roughlock trail –  this one mile long trail is perfect for almost anyone.  The grade is mild, perfect for children or people who have difficulty hiking uphill.  At the end of the trail is Roughlock Falls – another beautiful area.  And, just because winter rolls around doesn’t mean you have to wait to enjoy this trail, snowshoeing Roughlock Falls Trail is a great way to play in the snow.

 

If you plan on spending time in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota, I encourage you to explore Spearfish Canyon.  It is easy to find and is only 20 minutes from Deadwood and Lead.  Some trails are steep and have loose rocks.  Know you ability and you’ll stay safe.  Always carry plenty of water and snacks.  Be prepared for changing weather.

Be sure to pick up a good map like Black Hills – Northeast, South Dakota Trails Illustrated Map #751 it will make navigating the area much easier.  Also a guide book like Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills: Including the Badlands can be useful in planning your day.

About the author: Josh loves to take pictures and share them on his South Dakota and the Black Hills blogs.  Plus he enjoys traveling with his family any chance he gets.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Teresa Cline June 29, 2012, 7:20 am

    Really enjoy your posts, photos and videos. keep up the good work!

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