Roughlock Falls – Black Hills
The most spectacular waterfall in Spearfish Canyon isn’t one that you can see from Highway 14. Bridal Veil Falls may be a fascinating stop along the busy Highway 14, but Roughlock Falls is easier to see year-round and far more impressive. If you’re in Spearfish Canyon and you’re looking for a quick excuse to stretch your legs and see an amazing waterfall, Roughlock Falls is where you should go. Although you could technically drive to a parking lot which is only 100 yards from the falls, the scenery is the best if you start this short 2-mile round-trip hike at the spacious Roughlock Falls Trailhead.
One of the best parts about hiking this trail, as opposed to driving to the parking lot at the top of the falls, is the informational plaques along the way. Discussing everything from fossils, the geology of how the falls were formed, wildlife in the canyon, and even the Black Hills themselves, these signs are an educational opportunity for everyone. If you also decide to drive to the top of the falls, you will also miss out on an interesting spillway where dozens of tiny trout eagerly rise to feed on insects that have fallen onto the small pond’s surface. Starting at the Roughlock Falls trailhead, and crossing a sturdy bridge, bear right to hike uphill towards the falls.
Soon enough, you will see the many signs I mentioned earlier along the trail, and even the spur trail to the spillway I mentioned. I personally found it best to hike to the falls and then exit through this spillway route, but to each their own. After a half-dozen of these plaques, you arrive at the lower falls. This well-build platform allows you to see the gushing water as it tumbles down the falls. You can also turn right just before the lower falls to reach the upper falls, and while the view isn’t as impressive, it does allow you to see the upper falls easier. Take your time here and soak in the scenery, the platforms surrounding Roughlock Falls can comfortably support dozens of people.
Once you’ve spent enough time at Roughlock Falls, retrace your steps toward the trailhead until you reach the spillway platform. Turn left here, and you can see the tiny trout as they try to find food near the spillway. These trout are at most 5 inches long, but it’s still entertaining to watch them gobble up helpless insects. Walk down the bridge over the spillway to the far side, where you can then walk less than a hundred yards downhill to the trailhead where you parked your car. For such a popular day hike, I was amazed that I didn’t see much trash along the trail. Let’s work to keep it that way– it would be a pity for such a beautiful hike to be ruined by inconsiderate visitors.
Directions to the Roughlock Falls Trailhead
Drive13 miles south of Spearfish, SD on Highway 14, turning right onto Roughlock Falls Road and parking at the large trailhead parking lot.