Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota isn't one of the more popular climbing destinations in the United States, but it should definitely be added to every sport climber's list. With almost 700 routes and a ton of potential for discovering new climbs, Spearfish Canyon has a wide range of difficulties and styles. The canyon itself is gorgeous, with steep limestone cliffs and the breathtaking Roughlock Falls. It was only accessible by horseback until 1893, but now climbers and wildlife enthusiasts alike can easily get into the canyon and spend a wonderful day or weekend in nature.
What Makes It Great
Generally speaking, most of South Dakota's best climbing is in the Black Hills, in the western part of the state. And in the northern section of the Black Hills is a magical place called Spearfish Canyon. This gorgeous canyon is older than the Grand Canyon and has about 700 established routes with quite a bit of potential for even more routes.
Most of the routes have a solid 3-star rating (out of four), and are in the 5.10-5.12 range. There are seven main areas in the canyon, with smaller crags throughout, and the rock gets better as you head up the canyon. The climbing style ranges from crimps to pockets to steep overhangs, and most areas have a decent variety.
Some of the classics at Spearfish Canyon include Bugs Bunny (5.8), Carp (5.10c), Last of the Mohicans (5.12a), and In On the Killtaker (5.13b).
Spearfish Canyon is also a great place to learn to ice climb because the ice is reliable, the approaches are short, and it's usually not very crowded. The ice routes range from WI2 - WI4, and one of the best lines is Bridalveil Falls Left Side.
Who is Going to Love It
While there is a range of difficulties at Spearfish Canyon, there are the most options for climbers in the 5.10-5.12/5.13 range. It's a fun place with solid limestone and an easy approach, so it's a good place to get in and out for a short day, but there's also enough climbing there to spend a weekend or more.
Spearfish Canyon is a good place to learn to ice climb, as it's not usually crowded in the winter.
Because of the scenery in the canyon, even non-climbers won't mind tagging along and looking for wildlife (deer, mountain goats, porcupines), birds, or plant life.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Get to Spearfish Canyon by taking 14A south out of the town of Spearfish. The road winds through the canyon for nearly 20 miles, so check out Mountain Project for specific locations of crags.