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"This uniquely beautiful passage [Spearfish Canyon] has it all -- rugged cliffs, 
sparkling Spearfish Creek, a rich landscape dominated by pine, spruce, aspen, and birch stands,
and three waterfalls. Hike or drive to Roughlock Falls, a perfect blend of natural beauty
and manmade viewing spots. The newly improved walkways offer easy access to this
wonderland, culminating in the view of Roughlock Falls, a sylvan forest masterpiece."
~ from the South Dakota Vacation Guide, p. 223;
this guide was published by several tourism offices in South Dakota
As we approached Spearfish Canyon on our scenic drive yesterday I was leafing through one of several pamphlets and magazines I picked up at the Black Hills Visitor Information Center. I don't remember if it was the publication above or another one -- they all rave about Roughlock Falls. I saw a scenic photo of the falls, read an enticing description about it, and told Jim I'd like to see it since it wasn't far off our route.

In the little town of Savoy we turned south on FSR 222. We quickly came to a large parking lot at the trailhead for the falls.

A too-cursory glance at the map of the nature area told me it was about a one-mile walk on the trail to the falls:

Large sign with map at trailhead

I presented that information to Jim -- two miles round trip and I had no idea what the trail would be like. His knee was sore so he decided to stay in the truck and take a nap in the warm sunshine while Cody and I hiked on what turned out to be a very nice trail to the falls and back.

How I missed the road on the map, I don't know. It's obvious just looking at the photo above! I was focused on hiking, I guess.

When I got to the falls I realized most people drive back there. FSR 222 turns into a dirt road shortly after the trailhead parking area where we stopped. Because it is so narrow and the parking area near the falls is so small/gets filled up quickly, publications encourage people to park where we did and walk to the falls. (Note that most RVs should not go back this road. There is plenty of room for them at the trailhead parking area.)

Scenic upper and lower falls at Roughlock; this is Little Spearfish Creek.

On my return to the truck I could see the road beyond the creek from several places along the trail but I completely missed it outbound. If I'd realized the road went so close to the falls I would have encouraged Jim to drive back there so he'd be more likely to get out and see it. It really is a beautiful falls. By the time I returned, however, he just wanted to drive through the rest of Spearfish Canyon and go on back to the campground at Ellsworth AFB.

Maybe next time!

Nice, smooth trail

I encourage anyone who can comfortably walk two miles to take the route I did and don't just drive back to the falls. You'll miss too much, like this tree someone decorated with ornaments and tinsel. I noticed it a few feet off the trail and it made me smile:

The trail undulates upstream along Little Spearfish Creek, passing little rapids and a beaver pond in a meadow.



The trail is fairly smooth and mostly shaded by pines, cottonwoods, aspens, and birches.

Above and below: colorful birch bark

The deciduous trees are still in their light green, early spring leaf stages:

There were several kinds of white-flowering trees and shrubs in bloom but few flowers blooming other than dandelions. Yep -- still in the Dandelion Time Warp!

There are good views along the path of the rock walls and spires for which the Black Hills are renowned. They looked attractive against the bright blue sky and billowing white clouds:


There are several colorful, interesting interpretive signs along the trail that give information about the nature area's wide diversity of wildlife, plants, and geology:

Cody enjoyed splashing around in the creek when the path dipped close enough to it. I didn't see anyone else until we reached the falls so I kept him off-leash until we got there.

There is a nice wooden walkway coming down from the parking area, a bridge across the creek, and attractive decking on the side of the creek where the trail I was on approaches the falls.

I viewed the falls from below, where there were fewer people; I didn't go up to the parking area. I could see a higher deck but wasn't interested in sharing it with all the folks who were using it to view the falls.

The falls and the creek immediately downstream are very pretty with all the green groundcover and tree leaves. You first see the two lower falls:

As you walk closer to them, the upper falls come into view:

I saw several people walking to the falls via the trail when I was going back to the truck. Cody got lots of attention, partly because he was soaking wet and obviously having fun! I didn't let him get in the falls. He only got in the water farther downstream -- at every opportunity he got, I might add.

Cody had one last chance to swim before getting back into the truck. The creek is dammed just upstream from the trailhead parking area where Jim was waiting for us:

Cody and I went across the dam on the walkway and returned to the trailhead parking area, a distance of about a couple hundred yards, via the road.

If you visit the Black Hills we highly recommend driving or cycling through Spearfish Canyon and taking an hour to hike to Roughlock Falls and back. Bikes aren't allowed on the trail; either lock it at the trailhead and walk out and back, or ride it on the dirt road to the falls.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil