Devils Bathtub: A Spearfish Hike Way Off the Beaten Path
A Local Secret
The Devil's Bathtub is one of those special places we locals like to keep to ourselves. Thousands of travelers, tourists and day hikers pass this little known spot each year without even realizing it's there. It's so stunning though, I feel that this is one secret I have to share.
Please keep in mind that the Devil's Bathtub is on private land. The owners allow day hikers, but will only continue to do so if hikers are respectful - so please tread lightly here!
A Landscape Carved By Time
Spearfish Canyon contains a lot of easily eroded limestone and sandstone. Throughout the eons, Spearfish Creek cut down through these rocks, carving the deep, narrow gorge we now know as Spearfish Canyon.
The Canyon is one of the few places in the Black Hills where you can see Ordovician-age rocks. It is also well-known for the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks that can easily be seen here. Geology field camps regularly occur in and around the spectacular outcrops of Spearfish.
The power of erosion is readily apparent on the Devils Bathtub hike, as you walk along the banks of Squaw and Cleopatra Creeks past cliffs of deeply carved and molded Madison limestone, dolomite and sandstone.
Find out more about hiking in the Black Hills
About the Trail
Spearfish Canyon is one of the most scenic natural areas in western South Dakota and the Devils Bathtub hike is easily one of the most scenic parts of the canyon. The hike can be difficult in spots; you may find yourself inching your way down a narrow ledge and climbing over small boulders in others.
Don't let this deter you though if you're in decent physical shape, the beauty of this hike makes it worth the effort. Just remember to wear good, waterproof shoes or boots as you may need to cross the narrow creek several times as you make your way to the pool.
Other scenic sites and hikes in the area include Roughlock Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Falls, '76 Trail, Rimrock and Little Spearfish Canyon. The area is also part of the gold-mining history of the Black Hills and contains the remnants of several ghost towns and mines such as Carbonate (also known as the Cleopatra Mine), Balmoral, Cyanide, Preston, and Nerve City.
If you're not up for hiking, just take a ride through Spearfish canyon, a designated scenic byway that runs between Spearfish and Cheyenne Crossing.
You won't find trail markers or signs for the Devil's Bathtub trail, but it's relatively easy to find. From Highway 14 through Spearfish Canyon, turn left onto Cleopatra Place. There's a small parking area to the left.
The trailhead can be found by crossing the footbridge and heading off to the right. The trail is not marked, but is well worn. Walk alongside Cleopatra Creek, but be aware that you may have to cross the creek bed several times due to steep erosion of the banks in some spots. The hike is moderate and it takes about an hour to reach the "tub" with young kids in tow.
This hike is very popular during the summer months, with a dip in the crystal cold "bathtub" waiting for you at the end. My favorite time to go though is in September or October, when temperatures are cooler and leaves are changing color.
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