On the far western side of South Dakota, you can find the beautiful area known as the Black Hills. This whole area is full of trees, rolling hills, and plenty of scenic attractions. Not too far from the Wyoming state line, is the town of Spearfish. Spearfish has a scenic byway just a short distance from town. On the byway, there is a hidden gem. The secret is all about discovering the Devil’s Bathtub in South Dakota.
If you read the about us page on our blog, you will know that one of the ways we are able to travel so much is being open to a variety of opportunities. We decided to head to South Dakota’s for a long weekend getaway. This is different than our normal type of trips, but we had so much fun discovering the Devil’s Bathtub.
Spearfish is a town of about 11,000 in western South Dakota. While it is small, there are plenty of things to do here to fill up a few days. It is well located near major stops like Mt. Rushmore or the popular tourist town, Deadwood. I-90 runs through town for those who are driving. If you want to fly to the area, the nearest airport is in Rapid City. You will still have to rent a car to get to Spearfish.
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is only a short (about 15 minute) drive south of town. This is a great place for a leisurely car ride through the rocky canyon, as well as plentiful outdoor activities to take in.
There are many different pull outs and plenty of people darting across the highway so it is best to drive with caution. You may also see wildlife in the area, as well as falling rock.
One stop takes you just a bit off the road to overlook the lovely Bridal Veil Falls. You can walk down the embankment and meander to the base of the falls for better viewing and the chance to cool off in the water as little fish swirl around your feet.
Making your way back to the road requires a bit of a scramble back up the embankment but it is manageable. For those who wish to admire from a distance, there is a viewing area directly off the road with a full view of the waterfall.
After leaving Bridal Veil Falls and heading back towards Spearfish, there is another pullout area that is noticeably popular. Curious, we parked, and quickly got out of our vehicle and headed down the trail, unsure of where everyone was going.
The initial walk in this wooded area along the creek area is pretty easy. But, after a short while the landscape changes. Before long, there are rocks, mud pits, and streams to navigate. And… there are snakes.
The route to the area known as Devil’s Bathtub isn’t long (about a mile round trip), but it requires effort and some prowess. This is especially true as the main area draws near. To get there, you must make your way over rock formations, slick with moss and algae, and rushing water. Yes, people fall in the stream (myself included). Prepare to get wet!
You know you have arrived at the Devil’s Bathtub simply from the splashes, laughter, and squeals of excitement. This natural tub of water has cut through the rocks over time, leaving behind an area to slide, soak, and splash away the summer heat, water levels permitting.
While there isn’t much open space on either side of Devil’s Bathtub, plenty of people placed small coolers filled with pop, beer and snacks to enjoy during their stay. Thankfully, everyone also does a great job of picking up after themselves as there was no trash in sight in this natural area.
This place was a local secret until it gained popularity in recent years. The beginning of the trail also crosses private property. As visitors, it is essential we do our part to take care and be respectful!
There is further hiking beyond the bathtub as well, but we did not venture farther. We were not well prepared (see below), so our visit was short. But I can see where people can easily spend several hours enjoying the area.
What You Need
After a long car ride to Spearfish, this was one of our first stops on arrival. We just got straight out of our car, in our regular clothes, and made our way unknowingly down this trail. As such, we were not at all prepared to fully enjoy the Devil’s Bathtub. With that in mind, be sure to have the following items:
- Water shoes with good tread like Keene sandals
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Dry bag
- Water and other refreshments if desired
Wrapping Up The Day
When you are done enjoying these spots in Spearfish Canyon, head back into town to enjoy some time at one of the great breweries. We enjoyed the upper deck at Crow Peak Brewing. The views are beautiful and it’s a great spot to recover from the days’ activities. After that, we recommend Nonna’s Kitchen for dinner.
Where To Stay
This area offers budget friendly and economy style hotels. We were looking for something a little different for our trip. We decided to stay in a cabin located at an RV resort. This was a great option which offered a totally different travel experience.
Whether you’re just stopping by on your way through or planning a few days for your stay, make sure you plan enough time to visit Spearfish Canyon! Discovering the Devil’s Bathtub is a fun adventure not to miss!
So tell us what you think. Would you go on an adventure to discover the Devil’s Bathtub?