2022 Fall Canyon Color Report

By Kimberly Talcott
Spearfish Canyon Enthusiast & Freelance Writer 

October 4th, 2022

Color Change: 85% (High – Post-Peak Color)

Leaf Drop: Moderate


This is the last Spearfish Canyon leaf report of 2022. After a stormy weekend which included rain, wind, and hail in Spearfish, I can report the Canyon still stands and is still worth seeing! The mouth of the Canyon is bursting with colors from the cottonwoods and oaks. Sumac is reaching its own peak color change taking on a gorgeous deep red color from Rim Rock Lodge past Bridal Veil Falls. Low-lying Canyon grasses are also hinting at a crimson hue.


Bridal Veil Falls is perhaps its most beautiful now with the trees surrounding its Canyon walls finally making their seasonal transition. Something to look forward to in the spring: Bridal Veil Falls will flow with more water in the spring as the snow melts at higher elevations.


Leaf drop is moderate and especially noticeable around the Maurice Intake. While you will certainly notice leaves on the ground as you drive through the Canyon, the dropped golden leaves add their own beauty to the groundcover. The areas around Savoy and Spearfish Canyon Lodge continue to hold strong with yellows, oranges, and greens. Mild, cooler weather is in the forecast for the remainder of this week. Enjoy fall in Spearfish Canyon!

September 30th, 2022

Color Change: 100% (High – Peak Color)

Leaf Drop: Low


We are now at peak color change in Spearfish Canyon. Nearly every glimpse and glance you take reveals bountiful colors. Some of the goldens I mentioned this season are now taking on an orange hue. The bowl at Savoy and the trees behind Spearfish Canyon Lodge are obvious stunners right now. If you drive slow, you will notice birch and aspen that seem to climb the Canyon ridges behind the Victoria Lane road sign and looking south from Kissing Rocks. From Rim Rock Lodge to Bridal Veil Falls, the woodbine is a dazzling red, latching on and ascending the Canyon’s trees.


As I teased in my last report, the trees that will follow you along the Canyon byway have greatly progressed in their color change since earlier this week. We could still see more color emerging around the road’s borders in the coming days. The weather forecast includes a chance of thunderstorms this weekend, followed by cooler temperatures next week. Be safe and drive safe!

September 27th, 2022

Color Change: 75% (High)

Leaf Drop: Low


The colors in the Canyon are now the most vibrant I have seen yet this season. From the golden yellows of aspen and birch popping out of the highest points of the Canyon walls, to the glowing red of sumac along the roadway, your senses are in for a treat! Leaf drop remains low, despite a windy end to last week. Yesterday, the mountain goats were showing off their climbing skills near Bridal Veil Falls.


Areas near Spearfish Canyon Lodge are at 90% of peak color change. At the entrance to the Canyon up until Devil’s Bathtub, we will continue to see progression towards peak color this week, most noticeably in the trees that border the byway.


It amazes me how different the Canyon looks while driving in from Spearfish going south and then back out on the same road heading north. Especially with the peak color we are seeing near Savoy, it is worth your time to make a longer loop and enjoy the sights. You will get a completely new vista seeing the Canyon walls and rocks from a different direction on the way back towards Spearfish. The way the sun hits the trees is distinctive, and the panorama of the colorful foliage along the creek changes.


Drive through the Canyon with me in this video: https://youtu.be/bKBXEHObg6k

September 23rd, 2022

Color Change: 50% (Moderate)

Leaf Drop: Low


It is officially fall! We will likely see the peak color change in Spearfish Canyon this week. Of all the places in the Canyon, the swath of trees near the hydroplant building at Devil’s Bathtub trailhead, the bowl at Savoy, and Roughlock Falls are the closest to nearing peak color change.


Today is windy in Spearfish. It is disheartening to see leaf drop when we are nearing peak color change. Yet, science tells us it is not the wind making the leaves drop, it is the tree. As the nights get longer and the days get shorter, a hormone is triggered in the Canyon’s birch and aspen that sends a chemical message to the leaves to drop. A gust of wind may help the progress along, but wind is not the only factor. I am taking solace in the fact that we are not quite at peak color change yet. That means many of the leaves are not yet at their “drop” stage, and hopefully they will hang on! I will continue to report on leaf drop throughout my next leaf reports. Read more about the science behind leaf drop here: https://www.npr.org/2009/10/30/114288700/why-leaves-really-fall-off-trees


Do not let the wind stop you. It is a spectacular weekend to visit Spearfish Canyon!

September 20th, 2022

Color Change: 40% (Low-Moderate)


The winding roads of Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway are now lined with a sprinkling of golden leaves. Birch and aspen trees are still mostly green, but a few limbs on some of the trees are now transitioning into their fall hues. The best places to catch the colors right now are around Mile Marker 18 and at the Long Valley Picnic Area. At Long Valley especially, the layering of colors is breathtaking – from the purple and red groundcover, to the contrasting deciduous and conifer trees, and the framing of the limestone cliffs.


My husband and I biked the Canyon this weekend to celebrate our anniversary. As we trekked up the Canyon I wondered about the elevation change. There is a 1.7% gradient and total elevation change of nearly 2,000 feet as you cruise the Canyon. We are a little sore recovering from the 30+ mile up-and-back bike ride, but the views are so worth it.


I spotted some mountain goats on Monday evening! Check out this video to see more and learn about the Black Hills Mountain Goats. Their history in the Black Hills may surprise you!

September 15th, 2022

Color Change: 25% (Low)


This will be a week of color change in Spearfish Canyon. Over the last two days I witnessed a significant transformation throughout the Canyon with the birch and aspen trees transitioning to a lighter green color. This change was spotty until yesterday when the whole Canyon seems to have joined the march toward fall. I anticipate we will see emerging yellows from these trees by the end of next week.


As you enter the Canyon this weekend, be sure to look up and down the Canyon’s cliffs. Watch for those subtler, muted greens after the Bridal Veil Falls and Devil’s Bathtub parking areas, and directly above the Kissing Rocks. I am still hoping to see a mountain goat crossing this fall. In the meantime, I am listening for bees buzzing as the summer flowers still bloom. I am watching grasshoppers flutter from leaf to leaf. And if you look closely, you will see small gray and brown chipmunks that blend in with the Canyon’s rocks until their fast movements give them away.

September 13th, 2022

Color Change: 10% (Low)


Today the woodbine, a vibrant red climbing vine, is the star of Spearfish Canyon. You will see woodbine twisting around trees and climbing over rocks around the Canyon’s waterways. Another creeper which could not be ignored today is poison ivy. Poison ivy is giving us a full range of color right now to admire from afar with reds, yellows, and oranges often found all in one plant.


The bowl at Savoy is still the place to see the early signs of a season in transition. The dark greens of the conifers (spruce and pine) make a nice contrast with the actively lightening deciduous trees (birch and aspen). We will welcome rain that is forecasted later this week to clean off any smoky haze the trees have collected from fires in the Pacific Northwest.


Enjoy this video cruise through the Canyon: https://youtu.be/Q83JjEMky3A

September 9th, 2022

Color Change: 3% (Low)


This is the first Spearfish Canyon Leaf Report of 2022. The Canyon is only just beginning to show us her fall colors.


A drive through the Canyon this weekend will feel like a hide-and-seek game to spot any leaf changes. Here’s a couple hints of where to look: Victoria Lane and the bowl at Savoy. Low-lying Dogbane is covering the western slope after Victoria Lane, about a mile south of Devil’s Bathtub as you drive into the Canyon from Spearfish. The bowl at Savoy is the open valley area to the east of the byway. The trees in this area are lightening their greens as they prepare for more color change.


Rain over the last 24 hours has given the landscape a much-needed reprieve from a hot and dry August. We expect to see the peak of leaf color change in the last week of September.


Hear more from Kimberly Talcott about what to expect in the Canyon this fall in this video.

2022 Leaf Report & Photos by:

Kimberly Talcott
Spearfish Canyon Enthusiast & Freelance Writer


Kimberly Talcott, MPA, is an internationally published writer and public relations consultant with experience in the business, science, and non-profit sectors. Her favorite projects include grant search and writing, website content creation, and outcome measurement. To her freelance clients, Kimberly offers content creation along with a deep understanding of data, logistics, and project evaluation.