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Best Places to Live + Play: Spearfish, South Dakota
National Geographic Adventure announces this year's top 50 adventure towns, state-by-state.   Text by Dan Koeppel

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The Adventure Radius

In town: Bike Spearfish Canyon along the 22-mile (35-kilometer) National Scenic Byway.

Within 50 miles (80 kilometers): Summit 7,242-foot (2,207 meter) Harney Peak in the Black Elk National Forest.

Within 100 miles (161 kilometers): Camp within view of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial in Black Hills National Forest.

Where to sleep: Spearfish Canyon Lodge ($149;

Where to eat: Tuck into elk sirloin or trout at Bay Leaf Café.

Spearfish, South Dakota

Go Back to the Future in Spearfish
- Population: 13,124
- Median home price: $123,000

South Dakota's Black Hills, shooting thousands of feet above the Great Plains, give Spearfish the look (and feel) of an old-school Rockies outpost. The quiet borough is encircled by three major domes: Lookout Mountain, Crow Peak, and Spearfish Mountain, and its historic Main Street is lined with restored gold-rush-era buildings, such as the 1906 Matthews Opera House—now a lively theater venue.

Tucked in a patchwork of open grasslands, soaring cliffs, and hidden caves, Spearfish has hiking, biking, and climbing in summer—snowshoeing and XC skiing in winter. You could even do both in a single day: On January 22, 1943, Spearfish set a world record for the fastest change in temperature: At 7:30 a.m., it was -4 degrees (-20 degrees Celsius); two minutes later, it jumped to 45 (7 degrees Celsius). Come autumn, the thousand-foot-high (300-meter-high) walls of Spearfish Canyon light up with Technicolor aspen and birch. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, visiting in 1935, called the chasm "a miracle." But he declined an offer to build here, he said, because he couldn't improve on nature.

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