Climbing in Spearfish and the VC

Bucket Head, 5.12b at the VC

Hey there climbers, readers, bloggers, and all other lifeforms! I bet you’re curious about rock climbing and how great it is in South Dakota… if you are, keep reading! I’ll give you climbing beta, camping beta, and all the other relevant things dirtbag climbers need to know!

Happy climbing!


Getting to Spearfish Canyon is rather simple. GPS “Spearfish, SD”. Follow these directions. Then take Highway 14A (south of the town of Spearfish) through the canyon. This is the main road in and out of the canyon, which is where you’ll find most of the climbing in general.

You could also type in any of the campground found in the canyon, which will provide you with some good directions: Hanna Campground, Timon Campground, Rod and Gun Campground.

To get to the VC, type in your GPS “Norseman Lane”. The GPS coordinates on Mountain Project won’t really take you where you need to go. Once you turn onto Norseman Lane (which is in a nice neighborhood), continue on the road and veer left. You’ll go over the cattle gate and should see a NFS sign. Follow this road down for about 10-15 minutes. It’ll take you to the parking for climbing eventually. Before the parking lot, however, you’ll reach the vast meadow where free camping is allowed.

Guidebooks for the Black Hills

In all honesty, Mountain Project will do just fine when exploring Spearfish and the VC. Since the book was published in 2011, Mountain Project does tend to be more up-to-date than the book. Also, the VC is still being developed, so many routes that exist are neither on Mountain Project nor the guidebook at the moment. Rumor has it that a new, more current guidebook is in the making for Spearfish and the VC!

Here are the following guidebooks for the Black Hills areas:

Pro tip: Mountain Project has more climbing routes than the Spearfish and VC guidebook. Check out Mountain Project. The guidebook is helpful to have, however, as it gives camping and climbing beta. It provides maps that are very useful.

Climbing Beta

Spearfish Canyon

Sending Bare-Fisted Grizzly Killer, 5.11c

What you should expect at Spearfish is vertical climbing on limestone. The style of climbing can vary, but for the most part, you are climbing on small pockets, some crimps, and what I like to call ‘Spearfish jugs’. Spearfish jugs are really neat, as they are a good in between for a true jug and a cool and interesting Spearfish good hold/jug. The climbing her overall is technical. Sometimes, you’ll have to fight the pump on some slightly overhanging walls, but it’s more common to be a problem solver of beta on some vertical climbing.

Women’s Fall Styles
Warming up at Sunshine Wall on Pakistani Route, 5.9+

There are lots of crags to choose from, which is nice for when you are either trying to chase the shade or bask in the sun! Makes for a good summer destination. The weather can be a tad unpredictable, but overall pretty enjoyable climbing experiences when you find the right shaded crag. The early spring can still bring rain and snow, so be careful and come prepared if you’re planning a spring trip.

My advice: climb there in the summer (July/August) through the fall (October/November. I climbed in July through the first half of August, and enjoyed the great shaded crags!

Most trails are steep, but they don’t last too long. You’re looking at an average of 15-20 minute hike tops. Get your hiking legs ready! Be careful of poison ivy along trails and off the trails. STAY ON TRAILS AT ALL COSTS to avoid poison ivy. Practice the Leave No Trace guidelines as well – just like any other area.

Recommended Crags

  • Dark Side (shade all day)
  • Mohican (afternoon shade around 12:30 PM)
  • Shadowlands (morning shade until around 1 PM)
  • Big Picture Gully (morning shade until around 1 PM)
  • Blue Sky (morning shade until around 1:30 PM)

Recommended Routes

  • Princess I-Wanna-Lay-Ya, 5.9+ (Dark Side; has a mono at the bottom)
  • Yippey-Kiy-Yay, 5.10b (Mohican)
  • Carp, 5.10c (Blue Sky)
  • Peace Pipe, 5.10c (Mohican)
  • The Tomahawk, 5.11a (Mohican)
  • Bare-Fisted Grizzly Killer, 5.11c (Mohican)
  • Indecent Exposure, 5.11c (Blue Sky)
  • Concracktion, 5.11c (Dark Side)
  • Never Kiss a Sleeping Wolf, 5.11d (Mohican)
  • Black Slabbath, 5.12a (Blue Sky)
  • Death Star, 5.12b (Dark Side)
  • Obi-Wan Can Blow Me, 5.12c (Dark Side)
  • Legal Eagle, 5.12c (Shadowlands)
  • Whopgnar, 5.13a (Shadowlands)

The VC

Known to many as a ‘mini’ Rifle. Known to me as some really fantastic climbing and a hidden gem! Not very crowded, this area offers excellent camping and phenomenal climbing! The climbing style is different from Spearfish, which is just one hour drive away! It is still limestone climbing, but you’ll find some amazing overhung walls and some really great crimps, pockets, and side-pulls on the more vertical climbing walls. Don’t let some of the starts (mostly at the North Wall) discourage you. Just boulder yourself out of the starts and enjoy the rest of the routes!

The VC (Victoria Canyon) is still undergoing development by some amazing people, primarily Luke Kretschmar and Mike Cronin. Both of these dudes are bolting geniuses! They’re friendly and are continuing to bolt some great lines for us all to enjoy. With that said, be thoughtful, kind, and leave the camping and climbing areas better than how you found them. Also, many routes are found neither on Mountain Project nor the guidebook. However, the setters have been cool and put rock stones at the bottom of most of the routes to let you know the grades of the routes.

I believe the wall with the most amount of development in the most recent years is the North Wall. There are tons of moderates and excellent warm up routes! You can’t really go wrong with any route you get on at the North Wall. All are high-quality and super fun.

Recommended Crags

Just follow the cairns… or build one. Same difference (: There are some routes on this wall. Just climb around the cairns.

Well, let me just say, it’s a small canyon. So there are tons of routes in this concentrated area. But, you’ll perhaps spend most of your time at either North Wall or the VC wall.

  • North Wall (shade most of the day)
  • Victor Charlie Wall, A.K.A. Victor Charlie Wall (shade most of the day; routes see sun from left to right between 3 PM and 5 PM then back to shade!)

Recommended Routes

As previously mentioned, there are many routes NOT found on the internet or in the book… YET. However, I highly recommend the following routes:
  • 5.11b at the North Wall, found on the far right end. There is a rock stone marking this route.
  • 5.10+/5.11- at the North Wall, found just to the left of the 5.11b on the far right end.
  • 5.9 at the North Wall, found slightly 3/4 of the way down on the right. There is a rock stone marking this route.
  • 5.11a/b at the VC Wall, found at the far left end of this wall. No rock stone, but just hike left of Me So Horny for a couple of minutes. You’ll find it!
  • Sammie Time, 5.12a, found at the Sniper Wall. See photo below, as there is not a rock stone marking this route.
  • Love You Long Time, 5.12a, VC Wall. It’s in the book, and one of the hardest 5.12a’s I’ve ever done!
  • Me So Horny, 5.12c, VC Wall. It’s also in the book. Really cool, almost like you’re climbing at the Red River Gorge, but on limestone instead of sandstone.
  • Bucket Head, 5.12b, VC Wall. Look in the book! Super fun! There’s a redpoint crux that could be a heart breaker if you’re too pumped to finish it out…
  • Foot Fist Way, 5.13a, VC Wall. Book, again. This is arguably one of the best routes around and definitely in the running for the best 5.13a ever! Get on it.

Camping Beta

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There are many options in Spearfish for shopping:
  • Safeway, 1606 North Ave, Spearfish, SD 57783
  • Walmart, 2825 1st Ave, Spearfish, SD 57783
  • Lueders Food Center, 620 N 7th St, Spearfish, SD 57783

If you are climbing at the VC in Rapid City, here are your shopping options:

  • Breadroot Natural Foods Co-op, 100 East Blvd N, Rapid City, SD 57701
  • Safeway, 2120 Mt Rushmore Rd, Rapid City, SD 57701
  • Family Fare Supermarket, 751 Mountain View Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702
  • Walmart,  100 Stumer Rd, Rapid City, SD 57701

Rest Day Activities

Women’s Climbing

Food Recommendations

Honestly, couldn’t find many good restaurants in Rapid City – none worth the money they were asking from me. However, there are a few rad spots to check out while in Spearfish! From coffee to ice cream to typical brewery food, Spearfish can hook you up. Also, just taking a walk down Main St. will provide you with all your food and drink options. It’s a neat little town, and during the summer months they do a Friday Night Live Music Event on Main St. FYI: no one wears masks here. Here are some recommendations:

  • Blackbird Espresso (best coffee in town, good place for a rest day, small menu for food, fresh baked goods, outdoor seating, staff wears masks)
    503 N Main St, Spearfish, SD 57783
  • Spearfish Brewing Company (craft beer, small plates/bar food, outdoor seating, staff does not wear masks)
    741 N Main St #130, Spearfish, SD 57783
  • REDwater Kitchen (got apps from here, classic American cuisine that is coupled with Spearfish Brewing Company building)
    741 N Main St Suite #120, Spearfish, SD 57783
  • Steerfish Steak and Smoke (haven’t eaten here, steakhouse, fancy, don’t recall seeing any outdoor seating)
    701 N 5th St, Spearfish, SD 57783
  • Los Cabos Mexican Restaurant (haven’t eaten here, with it being like the only Mexican in Spearfish… I guess it would be good…, outdoor seating, across the street from Blackbird Espresso)
    447 N Main St, Spearfish, SD 57783

Comfort and Human Needs

Where Can I Fill Up Drinking Water?

If you’re in Spearfish area, visit the following places to fill up drinking water:

  • City Park in the town of Spearfish
  • Cheyenne Crossing in the canyon

FYI: creek access is easy to come by. For cleaning water, we used the creek. Take a dip in the creek after a long day of climbing – it’s refreshing! And you stink up the car less…

Where Can I Go Poo?

Well, don’t do it on the trail or anything! Go take a hike in the forest. Please follow the appropriate poop guidelines. You can find them here.

Also, there are pit toilet stalls (bring your own TP just in case) at some trailhead parking areas: Mohican & Big Picture Gulley parking and the Long Valley Picnic Area. The Hanna Campground, Rod and Gun Campground, and (Spearfish Canyon) also has pit toilets available to campers.

Clothes Smell Stinky… Where Can I Wash The Stink Out?

Dirtbag beta: wash them in the creek in Spearfish Canyon.

Pro tip: if you're washing clothes in the creek, do it on a hot, sunny day so your clothes will dry faster.

More civilized beta: There are some laundry mats in Rapid City, such as this one. There is a 24/7 laundromat in the town of Spearfish. It’s called Double Suds (919 E Colorado Blvd, Spearfish, SD).

Best Places To Connect to WiFi And Tap Into Work Life?

  • Blackbird Espresso, 503 N Main St, Spearfish, SD (best coffee)
  • Common Grounds, 135 E Hudson St, Spearfish, SD (extensive food menu)
  • Essence of Coffee, 908 Main Street, Rapid City, SD


I’m always interested in talking about climbing! Comment below or contact me directly. I’ll do my best to help you out! FYI: even if you’re not a climber, Spearfish Canyon is a beautiful drive and hiking spot. As mentioned before, the VC is also such a wonderful place. It’s one of the more enjoyable hikes I’ve been on while climbing.

Happy climbing! Happy hiking!

#teachonclimbon #teachertaylortravels

About Taylor Stogsdill

Hi! I'm Teacher Taylor. I teach, travel, and climb. I live for adventure, new experiences, and take pleasure in meeting new people! I share my experiences with anyone who is interested and curious. Teach On. Travel On. Climb On.

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