Roughlock Falls can be approached two ways: from a brand new parking lot ten feet away, or from a dirt lot a mile away, which you will find because you aren’t paying attention. If you are lucky enough to park in that further spot, you’ll get to discover the falls, rather than having them fall into your lap. And that’s what makes a vacation better than watching television. In this episode of The Black Hills Travelogue, walk the path with me.
The parking lot, as best I can describe it, is a dirt area near a hotel, and is not far off the main road through Spearfish Canyon (Highway 14a). There were a couple of portable toilets nearby. We parked there simply because we saw trail signs, not realizing the lot next to the falls was a mile further up the road. After we got on the path, nature took over.
We were there in mid-May, early spring for the Black Hills. Rain clouds came and went overhead, with breaks of sun here and there. The path was empty, and we marveled at having the place to ourselves, not realizing most of the others who went to Roughlock Falls did so the easy way. After a short time we came upon a small dam:
On either side of the dam the canyon walls rise up steeply. Rain sputtered as we walked. Birds flitted about. A little further on, the dam faded into memory and the natural stream emerged again.
But not long after that, we discovered the falls themselves. And having walked a little ways to get there, the surprise was all the better.
The sound of the falls quickly overtakes the senses. We encountered a sudden crowd of people, and that’s when we realized there was another entrance to the falls. Though disappointed to no longer have the place to ourselves, heavy rains from the last few days poured over the falls.
Newly renovated trails snake up the side of the falls, and you can stand at the very top and look down, as well. As we left we took a look back at the cascade, and though he didn’t pose for the camera, we did see a Water Ouzel playing in a lower section of the falls. Look for these unusual birds if you visit. They frolic in the rushing water and are quite entertaining. It’s a good sign to see them – they’re snobbish about water quality.
After leaving Roughlock Falls we toured the rest of the Spearfish Canyon byway (14a). Highly recommended – the walls of the canyon rise up dramatically. By then it was pouring, though, so I have no good pictures of the rest of the trip. This drive is an easy day trip from Rapid City or the Sturgis area, and is close to Deadwood, Lead, and several other small towns in the northern Black Hills.