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Roughlock Falls


One of South Dakota's most popular attractions (and one of the most photographed natural sights in the Black Hills) is gorgeous Roughlock Falls. The stunning tiered waterfall is located in Spearfish Canyon, near Spearfish Falls. Roughlock Falls is actually found 1 mile behind the Spearfish Canyon Lodge, and visitors have the choice of driving to the falls (you still have to get out and walk to see it) or hiking the mile up to it. We chose the scenic hike through the canyon.

The trailhead and parking lot are located behind imposing Spearfish Canyon Lodge. This is a popular hike, and there were several empty cars already in the lot when we arrived in the morning. A bathroom is provided at the trailhead and a second one can be found at the other end of the trail, past the waterfall.

We began the hike by crossing a footbridge over Little Spearfish Creek. The trail followed the creek as it wound along the canyon floor.

This was a well worn dirt path; very easy to follow and traverse. Informational signs about the area popped up here and there along the way. Shortly after setting out we came upon a long bridge that led across a fishing pond off to our right. Naturally, the girls wanted to take the detour from the trail and go look out over the water.

After the excitement of spotting several fish in the pond, it was time to resume our hike. The path crept slowly uphill at a rate that was barely noticeable. There were several places along the way where the girls could venture into the creek and cool off their paws. Our trek through the canyon was absolutely gorgeous.

We could hear the roar of the waterfall as we approached the lower viewing platform. It had safety railings in place to keep people and pets from getting too close to the rushing water. Roughlock Falls is a picturesque tiered waterfall, and the best way to view it is from the bottom. Ursa was so excited when she saw it that she started jumping up and down; she thought this place was magnificent.


After taking in the falls from the observation deck, we continued up the trail. It crossed back over the creek before becoming a paved path that wound its way up the hill.


Along the way were several other vantage points of the waterfall. The girls liked looking out over it through the safety of the barriers. We stopped at most of the viewing points but saved a few for the way down.

At the top of the path (past the actual waterfall) we found picnic tables and restrooms. The trail continued along the creek to the end of the upper parking area.

It was much warmer at the top of the trail than it had been on the canyon floor, and now the dogs were eager to get back into the water. Near the very end of the walkway was a perfect crystal-clear dog-sized lagoon. Ursa merely cooled off her paws, but Maggie wanted to wade around in the water. She spent several joyous minutes playing in the creek before deciding she'd had enough and was ready for a break.

Shady picnic tables were nearby. This would be a lovely place to have a picnic, although sometimes it can be a bit crowded. After we enjoyed a snack it was time to head back down, but we were in no hurry. This place was so beautifully intoxicating that it was difficult to leave.

We slowly made our way back along the path, taking in every bit of our surroundings as we went. We stopped at the observation points that we skipped on the way up. The walk down the cement path and back over the bridge seemed too short; it would be extremely easy to justify hanging out here all day long.

The girls, however, were happy to get away from the crowds of people and head back into the woods. It was noticeably cooler under the tall pines lining the creek on the forest floor. The girls loved this entire walk and were enthusiastic about it from start to finish.

This was a wonderful little hike. It's only about 1 mile (one way) and is fairly even terrain until the last push up the hill to the top of the waterfall. It was otherwise easy and not at all strenuous. Dogs and humans of all abilities could conquer this beautiful trek. However, it's not necessary to hike the mile up and back (although we recommend it if you're able). The falls can also be enjoyed by driving the dirt road to it. There's a separate parking lot close to the falls and then it's only a short walk to view it.

This was a wonderful place and we all enjoyed it here very much. We visited in the early summer when snowmelt and spring rains kept Roughlock Falls flowing at full-force. The safety railings help keep bigger dogs (and people) from toppling into the rushing water near the falls, but keep a close eye on your smaller pups. The entire place was lousy with chipmunks, which our dogs absolutely adored (although they were disappointed in the inability to chase them around).


This is a great place to spend a small amount of time or a lot. It's a gorgeous, easy hike that's quite popular during the warmer months (we encountered several people along the trail). We were surprised at how clear the flowing mountain streams were. The towering canyon wall cliffs rose above as we hiked, making us seem small.

We strongly recommend a visit to this magnificent place tucked away in stunning Spearfish Canyon.



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