Located at the mouth of scenic Spearfish Canyon, the town of Spearfish was named after the creek where Native Americans “speared” fish. While other Black Hills communities were established as mining camps for prospectors seeking gold, Spearfish focused on agriculture and commerce instead, providing food and supplies for the miners. Spearfish is home to Black Hills State University, one of South Dakota’s oldest educational institutes, and the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway attracts visitors and locals alike year-round. One of the nation’s fastest-growing “micropolitans,” Spearfish boasts many popular family-friendly attractions and a number of signature events.
No trip to Spearfish is complete without a drive through scenic Spearfish Canyon. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a 22-mile stretch of Route 14A that winds through the canyon, rewarding visitors with rugged limestone cliffs, waterfalls, and plenty of hiking opportunities. Locals flock here beginning in mid-September for the fall foliage, the most colorful in the Black Hills, but the canyon’s lush scenery changes with the seasons and is beautiful year-round.
Established in 1896 with the goal of introducing and establishing a trout population in the Black Hills, the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery is a popular draw for young and old alike. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also serves as a fisheries archive, housing an extensive collection of historical records and artifacts. The 10-acre grounds feature hiking trails, scenic overlooks, ponds, rock walls, sculptures, a replica fish car, and—of course—fish. Brown and rainbow trout can be observed from the outdoor troughs (where they can be fed) or through the glass of the underwater fish viewing area.
The High Plains Western Heritage Center is a five-state regional museum featuring exhibits and artifacts honoring Old West pioneers and Native Americans from South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. It was founded in 1989 to preserve the past and inform the present. Visitors can spend hours exploring authentic western artifacts and displays, and during the summer months, may want to stick around for the High Plains Country Jamboree Supper and Show—a chuckwagon supper and cowboy comedy music show.
Dick Termes is a well-known local artist who pioneered “termespheres”—brightly-colored revolving globes that feature optical illusions. His Termesphere Gallery is a complex of four geodesic domes featuring anywhere from 30-70 Termespheres on display at any given time. You can also see his Clock Tower Termesphere on the corner of Main and Hudson Streets downtown.
Also downtown, the historic Matthews Opera House & Arts Center, built in 1906, contains a fine arts gallery featuring the work of 48 regional artists on the lower level, and a theater upstairs that hosts plays, concerts, and other live entertainment throughout the year. For a different take on history, visit the Thoen Stone monument at the end of St. Joe Street. This sandstone slab was discovered by Louis and Ivan Thoen at the base of Lookout Mountain in 1887 and purportedly tells the tale of the Ezra Kind party, who allegedly discovered gold in 1834 but were subsequently killed by Indians.
With so much natural beauty, many people like to take advantage of the outdoors when the weather is nice. Golfers can enjoy tree-lined fairways and spectacular views at Spearfish Canyon Golf Course, one of South Dakota’s oldest courses. It was established in 1921 and features a driving range, practice green, short-game area, full-service bar and grill, and expansive pro shop. If Frisbees are more your style, Spearfish Canyon Disc Golf is the largest disc course in the area. Located at the edge of Spearfish Canyon, it offers 27 holes and a number of obstacles sure to challenge even the most seasoned disc golfer.
There is no shortage of year-round events in Spearfish. The fun begins in January with Chinook Days, an annual winter festival celebrating Spearfish’s world record for the fastest/greatest temperature change courtesy of a Chinook wind event in 1943. The event includes local food and craft beer, live music, an art show, bonfire, and mountain sports.
There is usually still plenty of snow in March, giving fatbike riders an opportunity to tackle a groomed snowmobile trail during the 28 Below Fatbike Race/Ride/Tour. This unique 50k event begins and ends at Spearfish Canyon Lodge; riders follow a lollypop loop through Spearfish Canyon, climbing to the Cement Ridge Fire Lookout before beginning their descent. Two other nationally known cycling races take place in Spearfish: the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder in June, and the Dakota Five-O in September.
Festival in the Park attracts thousands of visitors to Spearfish City Park for three days in July. The event is one of the largest outdoor summer arts festivals in the Midwest and features more than 200 vendors showcasing wares ranging from art and jewelry to furniture. There’s live music at The Watering Hole and plenty of food and beverages. Proceeds benefit activities in the greater Spearfish area.
Sturgis has motorcycles and Deadwood has classic cars; not to be outdone, Spearfish hosts the three-day Black Hills Corvette Classic every July. More than 400 Corvettes set out from Sioux Falls to Spearfish for the annual event, which dates to 1971. Visitors can watch autocross races and take a stroll down Vette Street USA downtown for a close-up look at the cars.
In September, Spearfish hosts the Leading Ladies Marathon, an all-woman marathon that takes runners on a downhill journey through Spearfish Canyon. The race begins at the Lead Country Club and ends in Spearfish. A half-marathon starts just north of Savoy near Spearfish Canyon Lodge. The event is an official qualifier for the Boston Marathon. Other events include a writer’s workshop and shorter road races.
The year ends on a festive note with the Holidazzle Light Parade & Christmas Stroll. This popular community event is the perfect kickoff to the holiday season and features a light parade with colorfully decorated floats; street corner carolers; a chili feed; Christmas shopping specials from downtown businesses; and a chance to visit Santa at the Matthews Opera House. It usually takes place during the first Saturday in December.
Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, certain events may be postponed or canceled, and attractions may not be open as regularly scheduled. We encourage you to check with each venue before planning your visit.