Basecamp: Keystone
Spearfish Canyon

Northern (Hills) Exposure

Keystone is a great home base for your Black Hills vacation. It's centrally located, and there is a wide variety of lodging and dining options. We've outlined a few easy, eventful day trips. Begin and end each day in the shadow of Mount Rushmore. You can do the day trips in any order.

Today, you’ll be venturing off the geological center of the Black Hills -- you’ll leave the granite rock formations of Mount Rushmore, Keystone and Custer State Park for the limestone and sandstone high country of the Northern Hills.

Pactola Reservoir:

Start your day with a hearty breakfast. This is going to be a full day. After breakfast, drive north to the ‘Keystone Wye’. Turn left after the bridge and you’ll find yourself on U.S. Highway 16-385.


Rochford was built in a gulch near Rapid Creek.

After 5 miles, you’ll come to Three Forks. Turn right, and continue past Sheridan Lake and Pactola Reservoir. Nice views, and several places to pull over. The rocky island close to the dam, dubbed Alcatraz by the locals, often attracts cliff jumpers.


This is an optional side trip, but this tiny little town is worth seeing. As you head north, watch for the Rochford Road turnoff on the left, just past Trout Haven. The road winds through the high country before dropping into downtown Rochford (pronounced ROCHFORD, not ROCKFORD.) There are usually a couple of motorcycles, a handful of bicycles (The Mickelson Trail runs right past) and at least one guitar-strumming musician on the front porch of local eateries.


After lunch, head north on the Rochford Road to Lead. It’s about 20 miles. Turn right through town to the Open Cut, which looks like a man-made Grand Canyon. There’s a visitor center perched on the lip of the chasm. After that, continue east to Deadwood, the city of Legend, Lore and the HBO miniseries. Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down here in 1876, and the capture of his killer Jack McCall is reenacted each afternoon on Main Street. Mount Moriah, where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried, is an interesting stop.

Spearfish Canyon:

Time to backtrack just a bit. Head back through Lead to U.S. Highway 85, and follow it southwest to Cheyenne Crossing. Turn right, and prepare for one of the most scenic byways in the Black Hills. The babbling Spearfish Creek runs alongside, and you will be flanked by the towering limestone walls of Spearfish Canyon. About midway, you’ll see the former town of Savoy. Park the car and head down the short path to Spearfish Falls. Farther down the Canyon, on your left, look up to see Bridal Veil Falls. Depending on the time of year, it’s either a torrent or a trickle.

Spearfish, Sturgis, Rapid City:

After you emerge from Spearfish Canyon, it’s probably time to head back toward Keystone. The quickest way is to hop on Interstate 90 at Spearfish and head 45 miles past Sturgis to Rapid City. Take Exit 57, a.k.a. Mount Rushmore Road. Follow it south from Rapid City to the Keystone Big Wye. Turn left at the Wye. And when you get back to your lodging, put your feet up. You’ve earned it.

Things To See

At A Glance

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