If driving past 1000-foot walls of canyon rock on an old rail bed flanked by pristine lakes makes your heart spin, you need to take the 20-mile road from Spearfish to Cheyenne Crossing in South Dakota’s Black Hills. It’s a drive for wildlife enthusiasts, hikers, photographers, and dreamers — filled with history and natural beauty.
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway may be only 20 or so miles long, but we dare you to drive straight through without stopping. You just can’t. Waterfalls like Bridal Veil Falls invite you to take a look after leaving your car in an accessible lot. Others — like Roughlock Falls and Spearfish Falls — require short hikes, but well worth the effort if you love seeing rushing water cascading into rocky beds and flowing past natural formations older than the Grand Canyon.
Looking upward at tall trees framing the highway in Spearfish Canyon reminded us of our wanderings through the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. We also discovered another connection we had with Spearfish: the website for Black Hills & Badlands reports that the canyon was the setting for several scenes in Dances With Wolves! (See the site three miles from Spearfish Canyon Resort at Forest Road 222.)
Occasionally on our drive, we’d stop to enjoy the peacefulness of rushing water . . .
or take a closer look at historic buildings near where mining and logging camps were set up years ago.
With plenty to photograph, we stopped and walked around often. But we tried to move at a good pace: we didn’t want to miss lunch at the highly recommended Stage Stop Cafe in Cheyenne Crossing! We’d heard that Stage Stop is the location for Indian Tacos, “the best in Spearfish Canyon.” And now we can affirm the rumors.
If you’re unfamiliar with Indian Tacos, know this: at the heart of an Indian Taco is a flat, round piece of Indian Fry Bread. Then, that piece of fry bread is smothered in various concoctions but mostly ground beef, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and black olives. It wasn’t enough to just sample an Indian Taco in Spearfish Canyon. We had to have the mix to make our own back home. So we purchased Indian Fry Bread Mix from a company called Woodenknife and made our own. Since then, we’ve relied on a recipe from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, for great fry bread and toppings!
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway makes a great Black Hills side trip. Allow a couple of hours if you like to stop along the way for photography and short hikes, a little longer if you want to make it to the falls. From Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon is about 10 miles; from Sturgis about 18.
Once only accessible on horseback, Spearfish Canyon is now open to anyone who wants to soak up history, nature, and pristine beauty all in one short trip.
See South Dakota,
Rusha & Bert