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, Biking, and Cross-Country Skiing
There are several scenic hiking and biking trails southwest of Spearfish in the Black Hills National Forest. Several trails can be found at the Big Hill Trails area. Five different connecting loop trails start at the Big Hill Trails trailhead and are marked as Trail #72. These trails range in difficulty from easy to difficult. During the winter, some portions of the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing.
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 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.
Loop C (6.9 miles, difficult) also starts out on Loop A (head left on A from the trailhead) and is another groomed trail that heads 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 ungroomed 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 the full D loop best for its views. Novice mountain bikers will enjoy the A loops. All of the other loops are fine for intermediate riders. To get to the Big Hill Trails trailhead, take Forest Service Road 134 south from Spearfish for eight miles to the trailhead.
Crow Peak Trail is a difficult 3.7-mile trail that climbs 1,500 feet. From the summit you can see Bear Butte, the lone mountain to the northeast; Spearfish Mountain near Spearfish; and Terry Peak, second only in elevation to Harney Peak in the Black Hills. 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 the Crow and the Lakota. To get to the trailhead, take Forest Service Road 214 for seven miles southwest of Spearfish.
A little farther south, Old Baldy Trail is a 5.7-mile loop that is moderately strenuous. The elevation gain is only about 300 feet, but the entire hike takes place above 5,800 feet. High-elevation hiking can be wearing. Add 0.7 miles 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 Cement Ridge Fire Lookout tower in Wyoming to the west. The trailhead is located 13 miles south of Spearfish off of Forest Service Road 134.
For maps and further information regarding these Black Hills National Forest trails, stop by the Northern Hills Ranger District Office (2014 N. Main St., 605/642-4622, 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 $7 for residents and $14 for nonresidents. Perfectly good fish can be caught right in the heart of Spearfish.
Spearfish Canyon Country Club (120 Spearfish Canyon Dr., 605/717-4653, www.spearfishcanyoncountryclub.com, 9 holes $25–30, 18 holes $42–53) 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.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition