Life As An Itinerant Artist

Stories and anecdotes from fifteen years on the art show circuit. 

Grizzly Bear Creek — Hidden Waterfall Hike


My friend Eric and I were talking about Grizzly Bear Creek the other evening. We used to hike from Mt. Rushmore down to Grizzly Bear Falls, where a lush plunge pool awaited the intrepid hiker. It’s a steep walk to get from the parking area down to the creek, and then some foraging is required to get upstream to the falls themselves. But this post is about the lower part of the creek, a part that I had never walked.

From Mt. Rushmore (16A), follow the Iron Mountain Road south maybe a mile. There’s a campground, with a couple of day use parking spots at the very back of the campground. It’s $4 to park and probably worth it. Find the campground host and pay them for a parking permit. The trail itself starts between two horizontal parking barriers, and heads south towards the creek, which you can hear from the campground. You’ll cross the creek almost immediately after getting into the forest. There is no bridge, so be prepared to wade the shallow creek. A walking stick is useful, if you need a little extra support for balance. There are four more fords after this one before you reach the hidden waterfalls, and you will get your feet wet if the water is running high.


A nice series of waterfalls

The trail winds around, mostly following the course of the creek upstream. There is thick undergrowth, pine and evergreens, and in a wet year, lots of poison ivy. Be on the lookout for it, and wear long pants with socks and hiking boots, rather than shorts and sandals, if you are at all susceptible. Fording the creek does help to wash off the poison ivy, but be cautious.


Small willows dot the bank along Grizzly Bear Creek

After about a mile, you’ll cross the creek, and can hear the rush of the first of two slightly larger waterfalls. Big boulders dot the stream, and it takes a bit of a scramble to get the best view. Another falls cascades over the boulders about 100 yards upstream. It may be possible to follow the stream all the way to it’s junction with the stream coming down from the big Grizzly Bear Falls, which is marked on the USGS topo.


Looking down into the creek

If you’d like to explore this trail yourself, drive through Keystone towards Mt. Rushmore on 16A. Take the Iron Mountain Road instead of heading up to Mt. Rushmore, and drive about a mile. When you see the Grizzly Creek Campground, turn in, and find a place to park. Or camp.

This link will take you to the GAIA Pro map route, which shows distance and elevation. I spent a lot of time making pictures, so your hiking time is likely to be much less, unless you stop to swim or bask in the sun.

Length: 1.1 miles to the second waterfall, about 1 hour each way.

Effort: Easy

Notes: Poison Ivy. Wear long pants.

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