A wide dirt trail follows a narrow stream through the canyon.

A trail running through Spearfish Canyon. Photo © Joe Bielawa, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Some of the best recreation in the Black Hills is concentrated along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, which runs south from Spearfish to Lead. Hiking trails, rock climbing routes, and fly-fishing are all activities enjoyed within the bounds of the canyon walls. The canyon road was designed to allow safe biking. The shoulders on both sides are about four feet wide. It’s a wonderful 20-mile trek. The fastest access to the byway is to take exit 14 off of I-90, and then stay on U.S. 14, which parallels I-90 headed west. Just past the Spearfish Country Club, take a left (heading south) on U.S. 14A—this highway is the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.

Hiking in Spearfish

There are several scenic hiking and biking trails southwest of Spearfish in the Black Hills National Forest. And there are several peaks that afford spectacular views. The Crow Peak Trail is one of the best and, not surprisingly, one of the most popular hikes in the region.

Crow Peak Trail

The trail starts off winding west though ponderosa pine, aspen, and birch trees. The path quickly turns steep, ascending the mountain through a series of tight switchbacks. At higher elevations, the trees thin and the trail becomes rocky. At the summit, the views encompass several peaks including Terry Peak (second only in elevation to Harney Peak in the central hills), Cement Ridge, Spearfish Peak, and Bear Butte in the distance to the east. The name Crow Peak comes from the Lakota name Paha Karitukateyapi, which means “the hills where the Crow were killed,” a reference to a battle between Crow and Lakota warriors.

Directions: From Spearfish, take Forest Service Road 214 (Higgins Gulch Rd.) about seven miles south of town. The trailhead is located at a good sized parking lot on the right.

  • Distance: 7 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Effort: Strenuous
  • Trailhead: Crow Peak Trailhead

Old Baldy Trail

Do not let the modest elevation gain fool you. While the gain is only about 300 feet, the entire hike takes place above 5,800 feet. High-elevation hiking can be wearing. Add 0.7 mile for the spur to the summit of Old Baldy Mountain. The trail loop winds through quaking aspen, ponderosa pine, and paper birch. From the top, there is a stunning panoramic view of Crow Peak to the north, Terry Peak to the east, and the stone tower of the Cement Ridge fire lookout tower in Wyoming to the west.

Directions: The trailhead is located 13 miles south of Spearfish off of Forest Service Road 134.

  • Distance: 5.7 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Effort: Moderately strenuous
  • Trailhead: Old Baldy Trailhead

Biking and Cross-Country Skiing in Spearfish

The Big Hill Trails present a great selection of trails for bike riders of all skill levels and for cross-country skiers. Five interconnected loops allow for an easy family ski trip in the winter or an all-day difficult bike ride covering more than 13 miles for mountain bikers in the summer season.

Big Hill Trails

These trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. During the winter, some portions of the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing and cross-country ski racing. Loops A (2.8 miles, easy to moderate) and A-1 (0.5 mile, easy) are fairly level, are groomed in the winter, and meander through stands of quaking aspen and birch trees. Loop B (3.5 miles, difficult) starts out on Loop A (head right on Loop A) and then veers off about 0.5 mile into the trail. At that point, the trail earns its difficult rating as it gets fairly steep in spots. Loop B is not groomed in winter, is a more challenging trail, and is popular with mountain bikers. Loop C (6.9 miles, difficult) also starts out on Loop A (head left on Loop A from the trailhead), and is another groomed trail that extends past the aspens into the ponderosa pines.

The longest trail here is Loop D, which is 7.5 miles of groomed trail with a 0.2-mile un-groomed spur that offers a scenic overlook of Spearfish Canyon and Spearfish Mountain. This trail is rated as moderately strenuous and winds through extensive ponderosa pine forests. Hikers will enjoy Loop D best for its views. Novice mountain bikers will enjoy the Loops A and A1. All of the other loops are fine for intermediate riders.

Directions: From Spearfish, exit 10 off of I-90 and head toward town on North Main Street. Just past the forest service office (2014 N. Main), take a right on Utah Street. Continue to a four-way stop. Drive south 0.5 mile on the gravel road until the intersection with Forest Service Road 134. Drive south on Forest Service Road 134 for 7.8 miles until you reach the trailhead.

  • Distance: A loop plus A1 loop 3.3 miles round-trip; A-C-D outer loop 10.9 miles; B loop 3.6 miles; Loop C 6.9 miles; Loop D 4.5 miles; 7.1 miles total from trailhead
  • Elevation Gain: 400 feet
  • Duration: Varies from 2 hours to a full day of combining interconnecting loops
  • Effort: Easy to moderately strenuous
  • Trailhead: Big Hill Trailhead

Fly-Fishing in Spearfish

Spearfish Creek is a fast-moving creek with fly-fishing access year-round. The river is stocked with rainbow, brown, and brook trout. A fishing license is required and can be obtained from Queen City Liquors, Wal-Mart, Iron Lake General Store, and the K-Mart in Spearfish, or at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Savoy. A one-day license is $9 for state residents and $16 for nonresidents. Perfectly good fish can be caught right in the heart of Spearfish.

Golf in Spearfish

Spearfish Canyon Country Club (120 Spearfish Canyon Dr., 605/717-4653, 9 holes $27– 30, 18 holes $48–53) is the only 18-hole golf course (6,667 yards, par 71) in the Northern Hills. The semi-private club is open to the public six days a week and is for members only on Wednesdays. Amenities include a heated swimming pool and a full-service bar and grill.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills.