Is Spearfish Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On April 19, 2024
Spearfish, United States
Safety Index:
80
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Spearfish, South Dakota, is steeped in rich history and a vibrant culture that reflects the resilience and spirit of the American West.

The Lakota Sioux first lived off this land, who gave it the name due to the “spearfishing” possible among the nearby waterways.

Fur traders arrived in the 19th Century during the Gold Rush.

The cultural tapestry of Spearfish is woven with the stories of pioneers, ranchers, and miners who shaped its development.

The High Plains Western Heritage Center preserves this heritage through exhibits showcasing cowboy life, Native American traditions, and frontier history.

One of the best parts of Spearfish is that it strikes the balance between an impressive small-town downtown mixed with wilderness opportunities in all directions.

You get the beauty of Spearfish Canyon and the 1.25 million acres in the Black Hills National Forest nearby, with a trip to Wyoming an easy few miles west.

When you truly want to escape to nature, it’s hard to beat the options in and around Spearfish, South Dakota.

Warnings & Dangers in Spearfish

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

The risk is low, but outdoor adventures can be strenuous, and you should not do an activity beyond your skill level or physical limits. Plus, the city offers plenty of places and attractions to enjoy.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Check out Prairie Hills Transit to see if that fits your needs, but you'll likely need a car to get around to all the cool wilderness areas. The downtown is very walkable.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Just one pickpocket has been reported in the past five years, but keep in mind that's just for the city. The county or federal land could have more reports of thefts. Provided you keep your gear with you and under a watchful eye, there's a low risk.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

This is a medium risk, with the depth of the canyon, brutal winters, and severe weather potential from spring through fall requiring visitors to keep a close eye on the weather. You should know as much about winter storm safety as tornado safety. Many trails will have snow into May, maybe June.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

This is a low risk, with the only robbery in 2022 being a bank robbery. Don't throw caution to the wind, but you can rest easy on this risk if you're using basic common sense.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, as a remote area surrounded by hundreds of miles of remote areas. Any suspicious activity should be reported to local police or park rangers.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

The police department reports any scams trending on their Facebook page, but they are usually garden variety scams targeting locals.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Women have as much risk and responsibility as anyone else to use standard practices to stay safe. The risk is low, and there are plenty of amenities here, even if you aren't that outdoorsy.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The City of Spearfish is going on more than a decade of safe drinking water, including the Secretary’s Award for Drinking Water Excellence by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Safest Places to Visit in Spearfish

VisitSpearfish.com is the website for tourism in the region.

It will hyper-focus on this part of the Black Hills, but you can also review the Black Hills of South Dakota website for a more expanded list of attractions, lodging, and restaurants.

Spearfish has one of those charming Old West downtown areas, and you can follow them on Facebook @downtownspearfish to look for local events or new information.

Those visiting from June through August will love Downtown Friday Nights, with a lively atmosphere and music.

At the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives, dive into the history of fisheries and conservation at this unique spot.

You can wander through the historic buildings, view the fishponds, and learn about the hatchery’s role in preserving aquatic ecosystems.

Discover the rich heritage of the American West through exhibits showcasing Native American artifacts, cowboy memorabilia, and pioneer history at the High Plains Western Heritage Center.

The center also hosts events and demonstrations that bring the Old West to life.

Experience the unique artistry of Dick Termes, known for his mesmerizing spherical paintings.

The Termesphere Gallery showcases Termes’ intricate creations, providing a fascinating glimpse into the world of spherical art.

No trip to Spearfish is complete without a drive through Spearfish Canyon.

Take a scenic drive along Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, stopping at iconic spots like Roughlock Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

Hiking trails abound for those looking to explore the canyon’s beauty up close.

About 17 miles south of Spearfish on that road and a quick side trip on Roughlock Falls Road, you can see the location where the final winter scene of Dances With Wolves was shot.

The Vore Buffalo Jump is a significant archaeological site that provides insight into Native American hunting practices.

It consists of a natural sinkhole where Native tribes historically drove bison herds over the edge to harvest meat, hides, and bones.

The site offers guided tours from June through early September.

The Passion Play Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing artifacts related to the Passion Play, a dramatic reenactment of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The museum features exhibits that highlight the history of the Passion Play, including costumes, props, and historical documents.

It’s worth the hour’s drive into Wyoming to see the unique Devil’s Tower formation.

You can go rock climbing, hiking, or stargazing while you’re there.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Belle Fourche National Wildlife Refuge plays a vital role in conserving wildlife and preserving important habitats in the region.

The refuge encompasses over 1,600 acres of diverse habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and riparian areas along the Belle Fourche River.

One of my favorite outdoor spots near Spearfish is the Community Caves, which is a wet, rugged, short climb to the caves with a trickling or frozen waterfall (depending on the season).

You get to do some scrambling and climb up a creek bed.

I wouldn’t attempt this in the winter, but you might be more brazen than I am.

Places to Avoid in Spearfish

Spearfish is one of the larger cities in the Black Hills, but it’s also the most remote on the northern side of the natural wonders.

If you want to be close to everything, consider Deadwood, Hill City, or Hot Springs.

Crime here isn’t anything to be too worried about and dangerous neighborhoods aren’t a concern.

The Sturgis motorcycle rally in late August brings thousands of people to the state and hotel rooms will sell out at inflated prices.

If you’re planning to visit during that time, book as early as possible.

If you want a quieter experience, don’t come during the rally.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Spearfish

  1. Spearfish has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @spearfishpd. Feel free to call (605) 642-1300 to ask specific safety questions.
  2. The city uses Civic Ready to issue emergency alerts, and all visitors are highly encouraged to sign up. You’ll get information about severe weather, road closures, or major public safety threats. This service is free.
  3. The police department has a form you can fill out online to report a crime or suspicious activity. This isn’t to be used for a crime in progress, but it’s a great tool if you get information about a crime after it happens. You can remain anonymous.
  4. The city also issues Notify Me alerts, which are geared more towards impacts of severe weather or safety issues. I’d recommend signing up for the “Alert Center” topics only. For example, the Civic Ready alert might tell you a snowstorm is coming, but the Notify Me alerts will tell you when the snow emergency parking ban goes into effect.
  5. If you plan on hunting or fishing, get a license from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. You’ll need to have this license on you while fishing or hunting. Those under 18 should get the lower-cost version of the license.
  6. Try to find a place to stay with covered parking on-site or nearby. Severe storms here can bring large hail that easily smashes windshields. Hail can be the size of golf balls or baseballs.
  7. Winter storms can start as early as September or go as late as April. While Spearfish is along I-90, you still want to keep an eye on road conditions through the SD 511 website. The interstate will be the first to get plowed, but that won’t help if there are whiteout conditions.
  8. If you plan on visiting the national parks and forests in the region, consider getting an interagency pass for $80. It covers entrance fees for more than 2,000 public land sites in the U.S. Plus, that covers all the people in your car and children under 16 get in free.
  9. The National Weather Service offers free, remote weather spotter classes. This opportunity can really help you know more about the severe weather that forms in this region, thus spotting danger faster.
  10. This area is prone to flooding after heavy rains, and you should never try to drive across a flooded road. Also, streams can turn into raging rivers after these events, and waterfalls can become even more dangerous.

So... How Safe Is Spearfish Really?

The violent crime rate in Spearfish is 32% lower than the state average and 35% lower than the national average.

Just three percent of violent crimes over the past five years have involved strangers, providing even more of a safe environment for visitors.

The theft rate is 48% higher than the national average, but 63% of those fall into the “Other Theft” category, which could be stolen farm equipment, construction tools, or thefts from a yard or campsite.

In 2023, a rash of storage unit break-ins would also be added to the “Other Theft” category.

Just 12% of thefts are car break-ins or accessory thefts and about 1–2 cars are stolen each month – both lower than the national average by at least half.

One thing that does stand out about theft is that if there is a valuable item to be taken, it will be a higher target.

Even the few car break-ins that happened averaged a $760 loss.

You eliminate this risk by removing all personal items from the car and locking the doors every time you park.

The largest safety concern surrounds the wilderness and the weather, both of which you have ample information to prepare for.

This region truly is a dream come true for those who love the great outdoors.

How Does Spearfish Compare?

CitySafety Index
Spearfish80
New York City67
Detroit56
San Diego67
Miami55
Honolulu65
Chicago65
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81
Melbourne (Australia)80
Montreal (Canada)81
Sydney (Australia)80
Santiago de Chile (Chile)71

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

The U.S. State Department website has a visa module that can help you get on the right track for either a visa or visa waiver. Make sure your passport is not within six months of expiring from the last day of your trip, or else you'll have to get it renewed.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar will be accepted here, and currency exchange options won't be found in this part of the state aside from ATMs. Actually, your bank at home will give you the lowest rates and the most flexibility.

Weather

Weather

Winter is long and cold here, with temperatures that can easily dip below zero with a wind chill. Expect freezing temperatures at night at least from October through April. July and August can get hot, up into the mid-80s F. Plan for layers of clothing to accommodate the chilly nights. Bring waterproof outer layers and rugged hiking boots, plus bug spray.

Airports

Airports

Rapid City Regional Airport is about an hour away, all interstate driving. This is the only option in this remote area. Even driving to Denver will leave you on the road for six hours, and you can take a flight to Denver from Rapid City in less time.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

We always recommend comprehensive travel insurance when visiting a place prone to wild weather. Depending on your chosen activities, you might want to consider adventure insurance.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Spearfish Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -3° C
Feb -2° C
Mar 2° C
Apr 8° C
May 13° C
Jun 18° C
Jul 23° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 17° C
Oct 10° C
Nov 2° C
Dec -3° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
3481419253029241683
Low
°C
-9-8-41611151493-4-8
High
°F
373946576677868475614637
Low
°F
161825344352595748372518

South Dakota - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Brookings80
Deadwood80
Hill City83
Mitchell81
North Sioux City70
Pierre81
Rapid City57
Sioux Falls76
Spearfish80
Sturgis80

Where to Next?

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