2023 Fall Canyon Color Report

2023 Leaf Reports & Photos by Kimberly Talcott

Leaf peeper Kimberly Talcott has been tracking the leaves in Spearfish Canyon since 2020.

Kimberly is a freelance writer and editor in Spearfish, South Dakota.

She blogs at SpearfishCanyonReports.com

September 28, 2023

Color Change: 100% (High)

Leaf Drop: Low to Moderate


It’s peak leaf watching time in Spearfish Canyon! The Canyon foliage has reached 100% of its autumnal color change. Most trees are now at their most beautiful and brightest colors. It’s not too late to enjoy Spearfish Canyon’s fall beauty! Download the Leaf Watching Map to follow along with the spots mentioned in this leaf report.


As you’re driving into the Canyon, before the Scenic Byway Information Pull-Off, look east and you’ll see a preview of what’s to come along the byway. Here and throughout the Canyon, the bursts of yellow deciduous trees show off the “depth” of the Canyon’s trees. The trees grow deep in the rocky crevices, and layer by layer the trees remind us why the hills look almost black with dense evergreens.


The yellows of the Canyon’s birch and aspen are vibrant along the Canyon’s top ridges. The ruby red shrubs and vines that leaf peepers will notice in the Canyon this week are sumac and woodbine. These shrubs and vines are accompanied by glowing grasses along the eastern side of the byway. In just a few weeks we’ll likely see those same grasses poking out of our first seasonal snow.


Savoy and the area around the Latchstring, Spearfish Canyon Lodge, and Roughlock Falls continue to be stunners with abundant golden leaves. Yellow tree-lined roads greet leaf peepers throughout the Canyon. There are certainly a few twists and turns on the byway where the leaves will continue to transition this weekend, and the colors will deepen. Areas to watch that are still green and transitioning to their fall colors include Kissing Rocks to Long Valley Picnic Area and the sumac west of Bridal Veil Falls.


The weather forecast is warm and mild over the weekend. I expect minimal leaf drop until mid-week with rain forecast on Tuesday, Oct. 3.


This is the last Spearfish Canyon Leaf Report of 2023. It’s been another beautiful year, but I have a theory based on what I’ve observed over the last three years of leaf watching. Visit SpearfishCanyonReports.com to read more.


Enjoy fall in Spearfish!

September 25, 2023

Color Change: 80% (High)

Leaf Drop: Low to Moderate


It’s officially fall! Spearfish Canyon is at 80% of its peak leaf color change. The deeper you drive into the Canyon, the more vivid colors you will see. Savoy and Roughlock Falls are spectacular sights right now. The golden hues of the birch and aspen seem to cascade amongst the Canyon rocks at Savoy. This is a great spot to view a season in transition, where many trees are at peak beauty while others will still reveal their colors throughout this week. Take advantage of the car pull-off spots as you enter Savoy to take in the fall splendor in all directions.


While hiking to Roughlock Falls on Saturday, I was reminded that each of the Canyon’s trails has its own unique treasures from unique creek views and sounds, to distinctive foliage and wildlife. Today at Iron Creek Trailhead, for example, my fellow leaf peepers (my son and aunt) spotted a chipmunk while I spied purple forget-me-nots near the waterway. We marveled at the golden birch lining the trail and sumac covering the castle-like rocks.


According to our calendars, the fall season started at 12:50 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. Why is it that our fall equinox and peak leaf watching season seem to coincide? Find out why at SpearfishCanyonReports.com

September 20, 2023

Color Change: 50% (Moderate)

Leaf Drop: Minimal


Spearfish Canyon is now at 50% of peak leaf color change. As you drive into the Canyon, the fall colors get deeper and more noticeable after Bridal Veil Falls and all the way to Savoy. Picking a favorite side of the Canyon’s byway is like picking a favorite child. As you can see on this map, Spearfish Creek winds along the Scenic Byway route. But, after Maurice Gulch the Creek hugs the Byway to the east and south, making a very picturesque sight for the senses. At Kissing Rocks, for example, golden birch and spruce trees frame the rocks and stream. With a closer look you’ll see multi-colored poison ivy peeking out from behind Kissing Rocks and lively shrubs and grasses revealing their fall colors alongside the Creek.


The summer greens of the birch and aspen are fading, and in their place golden yellows are emerging. A couple spots to watch this weekend are Maurice Gulch and Devil’s Bathtub. After you come to Maurice Gulch, look all the way to the top of the Canyon walls and down to the Canyon road. You will see bursts of light-green and golden deciduous trees cascading down the Canyon walls. The area southeast of the Devil’s Bathtub parking area and Hydro Plant No. 2 continue to be a spot to see bright, golden leaves that are nearing peak color change. Don’t miss the red sumac on the western Canyon wall at the Iron Creek Trailhead! You may need to park at the Trailhead to really see it.


As we learned last week, the Canyon’s colors really sparkle after the rain. With a chance of rain and cooler temperatures this weekend, the Canyon will be a beautiful sight to see!

September 17, 2023

Color Change: 30% (Low to Moderate)

Leaf Drop: Minimal


Spearfish Canyon continued its march toward fall this weekend. Foliage is at 30% of peak color change. We are now seeing striking changes in low-lying Western poison ivy. In one patch of Canyon ivy, you can witness a whole spectrum of color transitions – from green, to yellow, orange, pink, to red. Five species of poison ivy occur naturally in North America. Our Western variety grows as a shrub, rather than the vine structure that differentiates Eastern poison ivy. The Canyon’s colorful shrubs will be bountiful this week. A great spot to view them is the western roadside after Victoria Tower. You’ll see three distinct patches of fall color in the slopes to the Canyon floor: yellow dogbane, multi-colored ivy, and reddening sumac.


The majority of birch and aspen are still in their lime green phase. If you’re impatient for some golden hues, take a gander at the trees southeast of Devil’s Bathtub. That area in particular is at around 75% of peak leaf color change. From the tip top of the cliffs down to the Canyon floor, fall is right around the corner. Have you noticed the spruce trees that seem to grow straight out of Canyon rock? There’s more to the story than meets the eye. Visit SpearfishCanyonReports.com for more on this Canyon wonder.


Peak leaf season will be here soon! Download your Spearfish Canyon Leaf Watching Map today to follow along with these reports.

September 14, 2023

Color Change: 25% (Low to Moderate)

Leaf Drop: Minimal


There was a dramatic change in the Spearfish Canyon leaves today. Whereas on Monday I noticed just a few splashes of yellow on select branches and trees, today I noticed some birch and aspen fully enveloped in golden hues. If you’re visiting the Canyon this weekend, admire the large groves of changing trees on the eastern side of the road after leaving Bridal Veil Falls traveling south, at the parking lot for Devil’s Bathtub, and (my personal favorite) the greens and yellows gracing the Canyon walls after Long Valley Picnic Area.


We are officially in the “lime” phase of the trees. This means the deciduous trees like birch and aspen take on an almost lime hue as the greens lighten into yellow. The fading greens are especially noticeable in the Canyon with its backdrop of coniferous trees such as the Black Hills spruce. Why did we have such a dramatic change in the Spearfish Canyon leaves over the last few days? Check out SpearfishCanyonReports.com for an explanation.

September 11, 2023

Color Change: 2% (Very Low)


The leaves in Spearfish Canyon are still very green today. We are at 2% towards the peak color change of the fall season. There is lightning of the birch trees’ green hues on the western side of the road after Long Valley Picnic Area. This cropping of trees may be among the first on the Canyon Byway to transition to autumn golds. Right now, you’ll also notice clusters of wild carrot/Queen Anne’s lace, the tall white flowering plant bordering the road. If you’re able to park for a hike or stroll, you might also see purple asters and white daisies. Today was also a day for spotting wildlife in the Canyon. Find out which three animals I saw at SpearfishCanyonReports.com.

September 7, 2023

Color Change: 1% (Very Low)


This is the first Spearfish Canyon Leaf Report of 2023. Color change is very minimal at this time, with a
sprinkling of yellow from low-lying dogbane and stripes of red emerging from sumac and woodbine.
Even this sampling of color change is still very sparse in the Canyon. Yellow dogbane can be observed
near Victoria on the western side of the road and near Long Valley Picnic Area on the eastern side of the
byway. No emergent fall colors were yet observed in birch and aspen. It is time to enjoy the lush greens
resulting from a wet summer as we await the fall foliage. Read more at SpearfishCanyonReports.com.


Download the Spearfish Canyon Leaf Watching Map to locate the landmarks and leaf watching spots
mentioned in this report. It’s going to be a beautiful season watching the Canyon reveal her fall colors!