A Gentle Trail to Roughlock Falls

Alice and I have been ‘Summering’ in the Black Hills of South Dakota for several years now, and have come to really love the Mountains, Canyons, Creeks & Lakes found here.   Recently, we undertook a pleasant short hike on the Roughlock Falls Trail, located in one of our most favorite back-country areas – Spearfish Canyon. This post is about that hike…and to also share some recent Regional news that we just learned… that evidently this area is designated to become South Dakota’s newest State Park – “Spearfish Canyon State Park”.   Excellent news, as this post will show why.

Spearfish Canyon is located close to the Wyoming-South Dakota state line, along US Hwy 14-Alt just a few miles south of Spearfish, SD which also happens to be “just up the road” from Sturgis, SD, home of the fabled “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally”.   The Canyon was carved by Spearfish Creek… a world renowned trout creek, along with its numerous tributaries and waterfalls.  Our hike destination, Roughlock Falls, is located on a tributary stream named ‘Little Spearfish Creek about a mile upstream of its juncture with the main Spearfish Creek… close to the tiny town of Savoy.

The map below shows the location of Roughlock Falls and the surrounding features & towns.   It is fully interactive… click on ‘zoom in’ (+/-) to see clear details of the terrain in the Canyon and around Spearfish Creek:


We began our hike here, at the Trailhead located on Roughlock Falls Rd, a couple hundred yards behind Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Savoy.   Plenty of parking and a well maintained Restroom. We should note, for those not wishing to walk this hike, that continuing to drive up Roughlock Falls Rd (~1 mile) will take you to Roughlock Falls Park. The road tracks on the north side of the canyon wall… the Trail on the south side.

For all pictures in this post, just click on the image to open a new window with an expanded, high-resolution view of the picture. 

Roughlock Falls Trailhead.

Roughlock Falls Trailhead… just behind Spearfish Canyon Lodge

Checking the trail sign before heading up the trail…

Start of Roughlock Falls Trail... Reading the trail description.

Start of Roughlock Falls Trail… Reading the trail description.   Trail length is 1 mile each way, with an elevation gain of about 150′ over that 1 mile.   Overall altitude is about 5,000 ft.

This is a ‘gentle’ trail… with benches placed at comfortable & convenient locations.   Elevation gain/loss is minimal, less than 150′.   However, hiking at 5,000 ft. can present some breathing huffing & puffing for folks not used to it (like, Michigan flatlanders?)… but nothing too bad after the first few hundred yards or so.

Trail comes equipped with solid benches...

Trail comes equipped with strategically placed, solid benches…

Not far up the trail is a small Dam across Little Spearfish Creek… Beautiful clear water… with very visible brown trout spread throughout the pond and creek.

Dam across the lower stretch of "Little Spearfish Creek"

Dam across the lower stretch of “Little Spearfish Creek”… extremely clear water, and just ‘loaded’ with trout.   Click HERE to see a closeup picture of the pond’s ‘fish population’…

For instance, this large trout… just waiting for a fisherman’s hook.

The creeks in Spearfish Canyon are world-renown for their trout fishing.

The creeks in Spearfish Canyon are world-renown for their trout fishing. And notably… these creeks are NOT stocked by the State’s “Game, Fish, Parks” Department – the trout population is completely natural.

Speaking of Fishermen, just up the trail we encountered a couple of Fly Fishermen.   They seemed to have mastered the Fly Rod casting process quite well. Here’s one…

Trout Fisherman with fly rod.

Trout Fisherman… casting with fly rod.

As we moved further on up the Trail, we encountered bright pockets of sunlight… reflecting off spruce green… with tiny glens making bowls of sunshine in the woods.

Roughlock Falls Trail... gentle and easy to walk.

Roughlock Falls Trail… gentle and easy to walk.

Even though the Trail is a popular trail… we found moments of quiet solitude… and beautiful scenery.   There are strong urges to just stop… listen… and ponder things.

Roughlock Falls Trail... continues.

Roughlock Falls Trail… continues.

Evidently, the name of ‘Roughlock Falls’ comes from an old wagon road that once ran through Little Spearfish Canyon.   The wagon drivers coming down the steep grade by the Falls used to tie their their wagon wheels in place (‘Roughlock’), and let the wagons ‘skid’ down the grade… until safely past the Falls – Hence, ‘Roughlock Falls’.

After about 30 minutes of slow walking & exploring, we finally arrived at the first cross-creek bridge of Roughlock Falls Park.

Trail bridge across Little Spearfish Creek

Trail bridge across Little Spearfish Creek (Look close – Hidden in the green!)

Before crossing the bridge, we paused to enjoy Roughlock Fall’s lower cascading falls.

Lower cascade of Roughlock Falls.

Lower cascade of Roughlock Falls.

And a view of the upper Falls a little more distant.

Upper Falls.

Upper Falls.

After walking further into the small Park and along the boardwalk, we could clearly see the creek bed of Little Spearfish Creek down below.   Note the crystal clear water.

The view from an upper viewing platform...

The view from an upper viewing platform… note the crystal clear water. Perhaps 150 years ago… there was gold glittering down below!

The Park has a very nice network of walkways, complete with ramps, overlooks, and bridges across the creek.   And PLENTY of picnic tables. I would also note, the park is very ADA compatible… with parking off Roughlock Falls Rd that easily accommodates wheelchair or assisted walking needs.   

Roughlock Falls Park is equipped with many, many picnic tables.

Roughlock Falls Park is equipped with many, many picnic tables.

This hidden jewel of a picnic spot… is accessed by a bridge across the creek… It is a pocket of sunlight in a dense spruce wood… bright privacy.   Indeed, just past the bushes on the left of the area, out of sight… is another picnic table with a young couple enjoying a private picnic. We took this picture and left it to them.

A temple of the Sun... hidden in the Spruces.

A sunshine temple… hidden in the Spruces… on the other side of the creek.   Our most favorite picnic table.   Another table is located just to the left, behind the bushes.

Alice & I found a comfortable picnic table and sat down to enjoy our pack lunch… and heard chirping above.   Not sure what kind of bird this little guy is… he looked hungry. We did leave some crumbs for him in exchange for his Song.

Wildlife is abundant...

Wildlife is abundant… not sure just what, or who, this little chirpy feathered friend is. He watched us closely as we ate our picnic lunch on one of the Park’s many tables.

After our lunch, and a little more looking around… it became time to head back.   As we retraced our steps from the trip up, we again passed the lower cascading falls…. 

The lower cascade falls...

Time to head back down the Trail… back past the lower cascade falls.

And then entered back into our quiet, peaceful, bright & green Trail….

The Trail heading back.

And on down the trail heading back.   Just as beautiful heading up the trail.

This concludes our post about hiking to Roughlock Falls.   The peacefulness of this trail, and accompanying scenery, is gentle enough to make it “just a stroll in the woods”… but beautiful enough and ‘mountainous’ enough to make it feel like a challenge.   Thank you for viewing.   Any questions or comments please feel free to contact us!  

Thank You.
Jim & Alice LaPeer

To view a full-screen, high-resolution slideshow of Gentle Trail to Roughlock Falls, click the ‘curved arrow‘ just below the picture on the right.   To return to normal display, hit [Esc] key.   Otherwise, place cursor over the picture to display the slideshow control buttons.   Comments are Welcomed!



3 thoughts on “A Gentle Trail to Roughlock Falls

  1. Gorgeous pictures as always Jim. And your commentary almost puts you right there. Your getting to know that part of the country pretty well.
    Take care!
    Bob & Paula

  2. One of my favorite places! I think your little feathered friend may have been a black headed grosbeak. He’s a pretty little guy:)

  3. Beautiful country. We spent many years biking through the Black Hills. We have reservations at Hart Ranch 9/6/17 for 21 days. Then off to Kansas City, Mo, St Louis, Louisville, Bowling Green, and Nashville and ??? Maybe our paths will cross. Sandi

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