Spearfish Canyon is beautiful anytime of year, but fall is my favorite. The vibrant fall colors really accent the natural beauty of the area. There really is something for about everyone. An afternoon drive, maybe a hike early in the morning while the air is really crisp or a short evening hike.
Take a drive
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is 20 miles right through the canyon. It a great way to soak in all the fall foliage. There are plenty of pullouts and places to stop along the way. You’ll drive right by waterfalls and some of the most beautiful areas of the canyon. If you follow the signs at Savoy, you can drive the the Roughlock Falls Viewing area (about one mile off the byway).
Go take a hike
There is plenty of hiking in the canyon. Some of the most beautiful are accessible to hikers of most skill levels. Hike to Spearfish Falls is a loop that is a 1.5 mile total hike and does not disappoint. You are rewarded with a great view of the waterfall above.
Roughlock Falls Nature Trail is also an easy hike about one mile one way. It is a great walk along a stream to the falls.
There are choices if you’d prefer something a bit more challenging too. The 76 trail is only 3/4 miles one way, but has an elevation increase of nearly 1000 feet to the top of the canyon.
For even longer day hikes consider Little Spearfish Trail, Rimrock trail or the Old Baldy Trail. All great options to really spent some quality time enjoying the Black Hills National Forest.
I have many posts about my trips to Spearfish Canyon. I try to share pictures often and report trail conditions.
Visit Spearfish has loads of information.
The Black Hills National Forest has maps, current forest and trail conditions and more.
Black Hills the hike, a nice resource with a local’s perspective.
If you don’t have much time to hike while you are visiting Spearfish Canyon, I would encourage you to put this one high on your list. The trail is rated as moderate. The total hike is 1.5 miles. I love hiking this any time of year.
The trail is pretty easy to find. The path is right behind the Latchstring Inn. The trail has been reworked recently. It is no longer a loop trail, the only access point is just north of the restaurant.
The path is nice and wide and should be manageable by most people that can walk moderate inclines. Just take your time and soak in the beauty of the canyon floor. The waterfall is so beautiful, you’ll want to hangout and enjoy it for awhile. This is just one of the waterfalls of Spearfish Canyon worth visiting.
There is a scenic overlook on the south side of the restaurant that requires no hiking. See the map below.
There is plenty of hiking in the area. Just on the other side of the road is Roughlock Falls Nature Trail. While I like hiking this area all year long, it is definitely one of my favorite fall hikes in the Black Hills. And, if you are staying in Spearfish, be sure to checkout the Lookout Mountain Hiking trails if you want a longer hike.
The Meridian Bridge in Yankton is a great place to get close view of history and take a nice walk. The bridge was opened to foot and bicycle traffic in 2011. Vehicle traffic now crosses the river on the Discovery Bridge. From the upper deck, you really get nice view of the area. One can’t help but notice all the “locks of Love” on the bridge too.
The Meridian Bridge was completed in the summer of 1924. Prior to that, a ferry service was used for river crossings. It is a unique double decker bridge. The top was intended for automobiles and the bottom for rail traffic. It also had a lift in the middle to allow river traffic to pass. It was a toll bridge until 1953. The bottom portion of the bridge was eventually converted for use by automobiles and each level carried one way traffic. If you are bridge buff, be sure to check out the “double barrel” bridge in Chamberlain.
This is a nice areas to spend some time and walk around, perfect for families. Other than walking across the bridge to the Nebraska side, there is more to explore at the Meridian Bridge Plaza area. There are beaches, a splash pad, fountains, sculptures and more.
If you are up for more walking. Lewis and Clark Recreation areas offers the Gavins Point Nature Trail and Chalk Bluff Trails.
One of the first things I noticed when I started walking on the Meridian Bridge in Yankton, is all the locks. According to this newspaper article, it is a European tradition that really began to flourish when the bridge opened to pedestrian traffic in 2011.
Traditions holds you put the initials of your love on the lock. Lock it on the bridge and toss the key in the river. The Parks Department doesn’t have a problem with the locks, but encourages people not to throw the key in the water, but a trash can instead.
If you have some time in Yankton, I’d encourage you to take the time to walk across the Meridian Bridge.
Bishop Marty Chapel is a beautiful gothic structure built in 1950. It was built in memory of the first bishop of the Dakotas. And, as a memorial to the Benedictine Sisters.
The number of stained glass windows are simply awe inspiring. It truly is an amazing building for quiet contemplation. Regular services occur on a daily basis in the Peace Chapel (in the basement) and in the upper chapel – view the schedule here.
The Chapel is part of the Sacred Heart Monastery. Visit their website to learn more and they have a gift shop if you’d like to support them.
Yankton South Dakota is full of interesting history, I’d add this to your must see list if you are a history buff.
Lookout Mountain Hiking Trail in Spearfish South Dakota is a great opportunity to enjoy some quality hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking without leaving town. It is over 750 acres of land for pure outdoor enjoyment. Plus, an elevation change of over 800 feet offers a challenge and great views of the area. The trails wind through open prairie, stands of burr oak and ponderosa pine. Wildlife is abundant and that includes rattlesnakes, so be a little mindful when you are hiking in the area.
How to get to Lookout Mountain Park
The best place to enter the park is from the Nevada St entrance(see the map below). It is located on the west side of the park. It has a parking lot and then you traverse a tunnel that goes under Interstate 90. Improvements have been made recently. There are several well marked trails.
Cattle are allowed to graze in the park, so watch your step .
Ridge Trail – Tech Essence Loop – 3.5 miles
Blue Steak Loop – 2.3 miles
Les Fun – Duct Tape Loop – 1.2 miles
Hopa Maste – Round the Crown Loop – 1.8 miles
Blue Steak Hiking Trail – 1.2 miles
Minnesota Ridge Hiking Trail – 1 mile
Lookout Mountain Hiking Trail Map
There is a great map of the trail at the Nevada St parking area. I just took a picture with my phone before I started hiking and referred to it during my hike. It is a great area to get in a quick hike or spend a good portion of the day exploring.
There is no water along the trail, be sure to bring your own. Check the weather before you leave, weather can change quickly in Spearfish. Again, watch for snakes and other wildlife.
There is loads of hiking in the area. Spearfish Canyon is just a short drive from Lookout Mountain Park.
Gavins Point Nature Trail is a great way to take in some of the natural beauty of Lewis & Clark Recreation Area. The trail is just over 1 mile long and will take you through woods and meadows and it also provides great vistas of the lake.
This is located in a state park. To access the area you’ll need to purchase a day pass or have a state park sticker in your vehicle. It is about seven miles from Yankton. It is on the west end of Lewis & Clark Recreation area.
The trail is rated as moderate. Expect steep areas on the trail. The trail is covered with mulch and one has to be careful on the hilly portions, as your footing can be loose. There are some benches located on the trail and there is a gazebo at the midway point. This can be a great trail for families as long as you take your time on the steep sections. There is no water available on the trail, so be sure to bring your own.
The SD Game, Fish and Parks has a free map here. If you are wanting a longer hike, Chalk Bluff Trail is just north of here.
There is a really great hiking trail about 7 miles west of Yankton. The Chalk Bluffs Trail is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. You’ll find it located in the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area. It is a South Dakota State Park, so you’ll have to pay a day fee or have a state park sticker.
Hiking this trail can be adjusted depending on how far you’d like to hike and your ability level. Loop A is 1.5 miles, Loop B is 3 miles and Loop C is 4.1 miles. I Hiked loop C on an early September day. It was about 70 degrees with a light breeze. I happened to be working in Yankton and knew it was just too nice to head back home at 5 o’clock. I’m glad I took the time to hike this trail.
The trail is rated very difficult. It is very hilly and the trail is loose in some spots. I could see the trail being “greasy” on rainy days. After I completed my hike, my iPhone health app indicated I’d climbed 82 flights of stairs (and my legs were a bit sore the next day). The day I was there, flies were terrible. When ever I stopped there just tons of flies landing on me. I spoke with a local resident on the trail and she said it doesn’t happen too often, so don’t be dissuaded by the flies – I’d still hike it again with or without flies.
There is a lot of up and down on the trail. You are afforded many great views of Lewis and Clark Lake, plus the trail takes you down into little gullies located along side the lake. I just really enjoyed the trail, but it is a workout. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead. No water or services are available along the trail. Bring plenty of water and snacks.
I’m going to try and make it back when the leaves have turned this fall, I bet it is a great autumn hike. Also, I wonder if the parking lot is kept open in the winter? I think it would be fun to snowshoe there.
If you are wanting a hike that is less strenuous, the Gavins Point Nature Trail is located near by. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has a good map of the trail here. And, visit the official website of the park to learn about camping and other activities located here.
If we only have time for one hike when visiting Spearfish Canyon with friends and family, this is it. Any time of year this waterfall created where Little Spearfish Creek dumps into Spearfish Creek is fun to visit. Nothing like feeling the spray from the waterfall and watching the stream rush by. I love all of Spearfish Canyon, but this is high on the list of must see areas.
The little gem of a nature trail is found behind the Latchstring Inn, which is just across the road from the Spearfish Canyon Lodge. This is the area known as Savoy. It is about 13 miles from Spearfish on the scenic byway. The trail is a 3/4 mile loop that descends a little over 100 feet.
Along the trail you will cross Spearfish Creek twice and have a chance to see some on the local flora. Many people should be about to manage the trail, however there are stairs and portions of the trail are uneven and rocky.
If you have more time while in the area, hike to the canyon rim on the 76 trail. Or, enjoy the 1-mile hike to Roughlock Falls. One could easily spend a whole day exploring the canyon. There are more waterfalls to see and some really great hiking.
You can drive to Roughlock Falls, but if you have time, the hike certainly adds to the experience. The one mile hike along Little Spearfish Creek is a great way to soak in the beauty of Spearfish Canyon.
There is very little elevation change from the beginning of the trail (just behind Spearfish Canyon Lodge) all the way to the base of Roughlock Falls. It gives you a chance to view wildlife and plants found in the canyon.
Look for the signs past the parking lot of Spearfish Canyon Lodge. There is a parking area and a vault toilet. There is no fresh water available, so be sure to bring plenty of your own. Snacks and a jacket are a good idea too. You will see the small intake pond (pictured above) near the start of the trail. Roughlock Trail is great way for people of all ages to enjoy Spearfish Canyon and see one of the waterfalls in the area. When you reach the falls, you will find more vault toilets and several picnic areas. In the winter the road is closed to vehicles as it becomes part of the snowmobile trail, but you could still snowshoe to the falls.
Roughlock Falls is managed by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Admission is free. Visit their website for more details.
Below is is just one of the many maps and signs found along the trail.