There’s a reason Spearfish, South Dakota remains a clandestine outdoor destination. It's not exactly easy to get to.
In fact, a majority of the hundreds of riders who travel here to race in the town’s Dakota Five-O in September (a 50-mile singletrack mountain bike event), drive between seven and 10 hours from places like Wisconsin and Colorado.
However, after visiting this sleepy little mountain town, I get why it’s worth it.
“Despite its growth in popularity over the past 15 years, this event retains its grassroots origins. Racers and their families are greeted by a friendly town tucked in the beautiful Black Hills with great trails and an abundance of surrounding activities that are well-suited for a family vacation,” says mountain biker Samer Khodor, who drove from Colorado last year to race and spend the weekend with his family.
Spearfish native and race director Perry Jewett describes Spearfish as Boulder, Colorado, 60 years ago.
Situated on the northern edge of the stunning Black Hills, Spearfish is at the mouth of Spearfish Canyon in the scenic valley of Spearfish Creek. The decidedly Western-style township has one of everything you need, and, more importantly, access to monstrous miles of trails.
The South Dakota gem is also known for its nearby rock climbing, backcountry skiing and world-class fishing stashes.
“We say the Black Hills are just west of the Midwest, but more Western than the West,” Jewett, who has nearly singlehandedly put the town on the map for mountain biking, told GrindTV. “It's an oasis in the prairie.”
From Spearfish, the National Forest boundary lies just three miles up a dirt road, where the Tinton Trail takes off into the woods, connecting to a nearly 50-mile predominantly singletrack loop.
I sampled the start of this smooth, flowy, scenic ride and instantly felt like I was “out there” — in a good way. The dirt was smooth, the occasional rocks and roots challenging but doable.
The biggest issue with Spearfish trails is there’s no good trail map, besides local race or Forest Service maps, but both require some navigation skills and an open mind for exploring. “You’ve got to get some local beta,” Jewett laughs. But perhaps that’s the beauty of Spearfish: It’s still not totally buttoned up.
For now, getting a little lost might just be part of the fun. “This town is all about coming out and discovering it for yourself,” Jewett says. So you can stay somewhat on track in town and on the trails, here’s a loose outdoor guide to where to go and what to do in Spearfish.
Sleep under the stars right in town at the legendary Spearfish City Campground, an immaculate, creek-side green space adjacent to a paved town-touring bike path. Or access tons of unlimited camping just outside town.
Eats & treats
Killian’s Tavern sports a heavy bike theme and is right on the way to the Tinton trailhead; Barbacoas Burritos & Wraps for loading up after a multi-hour ride; Bay Leaf Café on the nicer side; the always-hopping and uber-cozy Dough Trader pizza joint; Crow Peak Brewing for craft brews; and for that inevitable late-night sweet treat, Leones’ Creamery ice-cream shop.
Try shorter local loops like Crow Peak or Old Baldy out of Spearfish Canyon; the Centennial Trail, 111 miles of singletrack out of Sturgis, just 17 miles east of Spearfish; or the Mickelson Trail “gravel grinder” out of nearby Deadwood.
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