Roughlock Falls

Black Hills National Forest / Savoy / Spearfish Canyon State Nature Area, South Dakota, USA

About Roughlock Falls


Hiking Distance: about 1/2-3/4 mile in total (to all lookouts)
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-07-30
Date last visited: 2020-07-30

Waterfall Latitude: 44.34995
Waterfall Longitude: -103.94303

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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.

Spearfish_Canyon_127_iPhone_07302020 - The main drop of Roughlock Falls
The main drop of Roughlock Falls

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

Spearfish_Canyon_141_iPhone_07302020 - Looking back at the idyllic picnic area on the way to the lookouts for Roughlock Falls
Looking back at the idyllic picnic area on the way to the lookouts for 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.

Spearfish_Canyon_143_iPhone_07302020 - Context of the developed walkway and the fork to the main viewpoint for Roughlock Falls
Context of the developed walkway and the fork to the main viewpoint for 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.

Spearfish_Canyon_156_iPhone_07302020 - Looking downstream from the footbridge over Little Spearfish Creek towards the knobby cliffs of the side canyon that Roughlock Falls was within
Looking downstream from the footbridge over Little Spearfish Creek towards the knobby cliffs of the side canyon that Roughlock Falls was within

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.

Spearfish_Canyon_167_iPhone_07302020 - Looking towards the wide percolating tier of Roughlock Falls from the end of the trail at the lower lookout along Little Spearfish Creek
Looking towards the wide percolating tier of Roughlock Falls from the end of the trail at the lower lookout along Little Spearfish Creek

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.

Authorities

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.

Spearfish_Canyon_187_iPhone_07302020 - Looking back at the nearest parking area for Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_119_iPhone_07302020 - Following the sign, which led us past some picnic tables towards the lookouts for Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_186_iPhone_07302020 - Signs and infrastructure by the open area near Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_120_iPhone_07302020 - Passing through an inviting and wide open picnic area on the way to Roughlock Falls' lookouts
Spearfish_Canyon_121_iPhone_07302020 - The nice thing about this open picnic and chill out spot was that we could see the pretty cliffs surrounding us in this side canyon of Spearfish Canyon that I dubbed 'Little Spearfish Canyon'
Spearfish_Canyon_122_iPhone_07302020 - Approaching a trail fork where the bridge and path on the right led to a lookout right at the brink of Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_135_iPhone_07302020 - Looking downstream from the upper footbridge over Little Spearfish Creek where there was quite a crowd at the lookout by the brink of Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_137_iPhone_07302020 - This was the view of the brink of Roughlock Falls from its closest lookout
Spearfish_Canyon_132_iPhone_07302020 - Looking across the brink of Roughlock Falls towards the lookout by its brink
Spearfish_Canyon_170_iPhone_07302020 - Julie checking out the main lookout for Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_128_iPhone_07302020 - Frontal look at Roughlock Falls from the main lookout
Spearfish_Canyon_145_iPhone_07302020 - Looking towards the bottom of Little Spearfish Creek just downstream of the main drop of Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_151_iPhone_07302020 - Continuing on the trail leading deeper into the floor of the 'Little Spearfish Canyon' in pursuit of the lower lookout for Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_154_iPhone_07302020 - Waiting for a couple to go up out of 'Little Spearfish Canyon' while I made my way down
Spearfish_Canyon_157_iPhone_07302020 - Looking upstream towards the bottom of Roughlock Falls from the lower footbridge over Little Spearfish Creek
Spearfish_Canyon_159_iPhone_07302020 - Context of the final approach to the lower lookout for Roughlock Falls
Spearfish_Canyon_169_iPhone_07302020 - Direct look at the wide cascade at the bottom of Roughlock Falls as seen from the dead-end at the lower lookout
Spearfish_Canyon_172_iPhone_07302020 - Long exposure look at Roughlock Falls after finally remembering how to do it for iPhones
Spearfish_Canyon_180_iPhone_07302020 - The main lookout for Roughlock Falls got real busy when we left
Spearfish_Canyon_189_iPhone_07302020 - On the way back to the parking area, we noticed these kid-friendly dipping pools on Little Spearfish Creek that looked very inviting
Spearfish_Canyon_191_iPhone_07302020 - One of the quiet picnic areas on the other side of Little Spearfish Creek
Spearfish_Canyon_192_iPhone_07302020 - Another look at the wading pool on Little Spearfish Creek when we had a brief opportunity to check it out and still be socially distanced

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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.

Spearfish_Canyon_115_iPhone_07302020 - The parking area for Roughlock Falls
The parking area for Roughlock Falls

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.

Spearfish_Canyon_116_iPhone_07302020 - Looking back towards the nearest parking area for Roughlock Falls
Looking back towards the nearest parking area for Roughlock Falls

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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Downstream to upstream sweep from perhaps the best lookout of the three for the Roughlock Falls


Sweep around the lookout by the brink of the Roughlock Falls


Long video starting from the end of the walkway and ending up on the bridge with a nice view of the canyon further downstream

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Tagged with: little spearfish canyon, savoy, south dakota, spearfish canyon, black hills national forest, waterfall



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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