- 20 miles (32 km)
- Approximately 40 minutes
- There are no fees along the byway proper.
From a distance, the light-absorbing Ponderosa pine makes the hill country of South Dakota seem dark, more black than green. For this reason, Native Americans named the country Paha Sapa, or Black Hills. Naturalists appreciate the incredible diversity in the Black Hills and prospectors still mine the gold beneath the surface. As the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway cuts through the Black Hills, it melds all elements of the Black Hills legacy into a single experience.
Slowly carved from the rock as the last great ocean receded from the face of North America, Spearfish Canyon features nearly vertical cliffs with stone in Neapolitan shades of brown, pink, and gray. The narrow 11th Hour Gulch has such high walls that it only gets one hour of sunlight per day, and by mid-fall a large pillar of ice already begins crystallizing. Plants from four different regions of North America share the Spearfish Canyon area, with mountain pines and northern spruces standing alongside aspen and prairie grasses. You might not strike it rich in Spearfish Canyon today, but an autumn drive will still give you plenty of gold when the aspen are in full color.
Gold and lumber attracted settlers to the Spearfish area, and although visitors' main focus has shifted to recreation, traces of the past remain along the route. The red brick walls and large plate windows of the Maurice Hydro Power Plant blend with the surrounding trees and the lapping creek to create a rustic scene. At the end of the byway, visit Cheyenne Crossing Store, a stopping point on the road since the days of the stagecoach. You can also find Calamity Jane's notched rifle on display at the Latchstring Inn in Savoy.
Bicycling Magazine has named Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway as one of the top 50 scenic bike paths in the country, and the four-foot shoulders easily accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians. During the colder months, take a tour of the fall colors, take a hunting excursion, or strap on cross-country skis and head off down the trail.
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway lets you experience the nature, history, and adventure of the Black Hills.