About Roughlock Falls
Roughlock Falls was an attractive 50ft waterfall nestled within a surprisingly scenic side canyon of Spearfish Canyon carved out by the Little Spearfish Creek.
As a result, I tend to call that side canyon “Little Spearfish Canyon”, but I’m not sure if that’s the official place name for it.
Nevertheless, I found the scenery of this side canyon to be every bit as compelling as the waterfall, and thus it was worth considering the one-mile trail that connected Spearfish Falls with this waterfall.
In addition to the scenery and the waterfall, we saw some informal wading pools that drew the kids further upstream from the falls on Little Spearfish Creek.
There were also picnic areas upstream of the falls, which further made this the kind of place that you can chill out for a bit before continuing to explore the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.
Indeed, there were lots of options here, but I’ll just focus on how we were able to experience Roughlock Falls, which was via a short trail from its nearest parking area (see directions below).
Experiencing the Upper Lookouts of Roughlock Falls
From the parking area, we only had to walk roughly 600ft downstream along Little Spearfish Creek on a well-established walkway.
Near the parking area, there were the aforementioned wading pools as well as some picnic tables.
Further along the walkway, there was an open grassy area with some more picnic tables and a restroom facility, where I noticed lots of people chilling out in the grass and basking in the scenery around them.
Then, just a few paces further was a fork in the walkway where the path on the right went across a bridge and right to a lookout with a partial view of Roughlock Falls.
Continuing straight on the left path led to another fork where the spur on the right led to a lookout with a satisfying frontal view of Roughlock Falls.
I found this lookout to be the best spot to view the waterfall, and apparently lots of other people agreed because it can definitely get busy here.
Experiencing the Lower Lookout of Roughlock Falls
Beyond the main lookout, the developed walking path descended deeper into the “Little Spearfish Canyon” with knobby cliffs backing the scene.
Once at the bottom of the descent, the trail then crossed a footbridge over Little Spearfish Creek where I got more beautiful downstream views of the canyon.
On the other end of the bridge, there was a three-way trail junction where going left would have continued the mile-long trail back towards Spearfish Falls and Savoy.
However, I went right, where a spur trail led to a dead-end with a partial view of Roughlock Falls fronted by a wide percolating cascade.
This was the kind of spot that was conducive to long exposure photographs, and it might be why many photographers consider this waterfall to be the most scenic in Spearfish Canyon.
I guess which of these waterfalls was considered the most beautiful was subjective so I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
After having my fill of this bottom lookout of Roughlock Falls, I then returned the way I came, which made the overall walk between a half-mile to 3/4-mile.
Overall, we spent roughly 30-45 minutes away from the car.
Roughlock Falls resides in the Spearfish Canyon Nature Area near the town of Spearfish in Lawrence County, South Dakota. It is administered by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Roughlock Falls sat in a side canyon on Little Spearfish Creek just a mile west of Spearfish Falls. Both waterfalls sat in the heart of the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (ALT US14) at the hamlet of Savoy.
The turnoff onto the Roughlock Falls Road was opposite the ALT US14 from the Latchstring Restaurant and by the Spearfish Canyon Lodge.
We then turned left (we were facing north) onto Roughlock Falls Road and followed it for about a mile before finding parking in one of the lots on either side of the road.
For some context on where Savoy was, from the town of Spearfish, it was about 14 miles south on the ALT US14, which would take about 30 minutes.
Coming from the other direction in the town of Lead, we drove about 14 miles west on the ALT US14.
To reach either Spearfish or Lead, you can use your favorite routing app or software of your choice to get from your location or town to one of these towns.
Note that Lead was about 46 miles (an hour drive) from Keystone along mostly the US385 while it was about 45 miles (under an hour drive) from Rapid City along a combination of the I-90 and ALT US14.
For additional context, Spearfish was 18 miles (under 30 minutes drive on the direct route) northwest from Lead, about 48 miles (45 minutes drive) northwest from Rapid City, 69 miles (over an hour drive) northwest from Keystone, about 71 miles (90 minutes drive) north of Custer, 392 miles (over 5.5 hours drive) west of Sioux Falls, 33 miles (30 minutes drive) east of Sundance, Wyoming, 296 miles (over 4.5 hours drive) north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and 274 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) southeast of Billings, Montana.
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