Nestled in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota lies a pristine oasis — a place where the rush of water, the lushness of nature, and the serenity of a hidden swimming hole converge. Cascade Falls and its accompanying swimming hole provide a nostalgic taste of summer days gone by.
There are two areas to explore, Cascade Springs and Cascade Falls, located a couple of miles from one another. As you leave Hot Springs, SD, you'll come to the Cascade Springs area first. This is a great place to explore and have a picnic. The falls is a couple of miles down the road and is a more popular area that may become crowded during hot summer days.
What to expect at Cascade Springs and Falls
A visit to Cascade Springs or Falls begins at their respective picnic and parking areas. Each has pavilions and toilets. The springs, creek, falls, and swimming hole can be accessed by trails lined with native grasses and a variety of deciduous trees. As you approach, the sound of cascading water begins to echo through the trees, creating a symphony of nature's most soothing notes.
Cascade Springs is the largest spring in the Black Hills. The spring water emerges from six discharge points at 67°F to feed Cascade Creek, filling the creek with warm, clean, clear water. From the parking lot, it's a short walk across a bridge to a park. Take a right and follow the fence until it ends. Just a short jaunt upstream, you'll see where one spring bubbles from the ground.
If you head the other direction, a pavilion marks the point of two more springs, one bubbling from a well-shaped brick structure. The other feeding a small pool with stones surrounding the perimeter. All six discharge points eventually come together in streams and falls to form more pools and feed a rolling creek. Whether you're visiting in the summer or dead of winter, it's a beautiful and enchanting place to spend an afternoon.
Several rare plant species only found in South Dakota grow along Cascade Creek. These include the tulip gentian, beaked spikerush, southern maidenhair fern, and stream orchid. These make for excellent photo opportunities along the banks.
The creek winds its way from the springs toward the swimming hole. It can be seen along the road as you drive between the two.
The falls and swimming hole
From the parking area, follow the sidewalk through the park and along the trees to get to the swimming hole. There are options to take stairs down the slope or take a ramp.
The swimming hole is where the spring water pools at its largest point, but there are several "holes" to choose from in the vicinity. The water is a turquoise blue and shimmers in the sunlight, inviting visitors to take a refreshing dip. As you approach the swimming hole, you’ll likely hear others laughing and splashing as they enjoy the water — this is a popular retreat for locals and visitors alike.
The falls are a roaring cascade over rocks, fed from the natural spring. The swimming hole is a sanctuary — a perfect spot to cool off and relax. The water, cool and rejuvenating, offers respite from the summer heat, creating an idyllic setting for a swim or leisurely float. The gentle current makes for a relaxing experience, allowing you to drift and let the worries of the world fade away.
Exploring the falls, creek, and springs
Cascade Falls, Creek, and Springs present an opportunity for an immersive outdoor experience, a chance to reconnect with nature and relish in the simplicity of the great outdoors.
The area is perfect for exploration. Take a moment to wander along the trails and discover the diverse plant life that calls this place home. Listen to the chirping of birds or watch the playful dance of butterflies. But watch your step! You’ll need to watch for rattlesnakes and poison ivy.
Tips for a memorable visit
If you're planning to visit Cascade Falls and Cascade Springs, here are some tips to ensure an unforgettable experience:
Wear comfortable clothing, bring a bathing suit, and wear some decent shoes — especially if you’re planning on doing some hiking or exploring.
Pack essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, a beach towel, and bug spray.
Respect nature by staying on trails and packing out anything you bring in.
Check weather conditions before heading out to ensure you’ll have a safe and enjoyable visit.
Know what poison ivy looks like and avoid it.
Watch out for rattlesnakes.
If you’re swimming with little ones, ensure they have floaties, and remember that moss and wet rocks can be slippery.
Bring your camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of the falls and the fun your friends and family have while cooling off from the summer heat.
How to get there
From Hot Springs, SD, head south on Hwy 71. The J.H. Keith Park Cascade Springs Picnic Ground is located about six miles south of Hot Springs, and the Cascade Falls Picnic Ground is located about eight miles south.
A nostalgic destination
The opportunity to soak in a natural swimming hole provides a nostalgic experience that’s hard to find. The trees swaying in the breeze, the water cascading, people splashing and laughing. No chemicals in the water. No lifeguards monitoring every move. Just nature. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a popular destination — a hidden treasure promising memories that will last a lifetime.
Where to stay when you visit Cascade Falls
Located just eight miles north of Cascade Falls is the charming town of Hot Springs, SD, and atop a bluff sits several private cabins, tipis, and a lodge. Highland Meadows Resort offers luxury lodging at the southern end of the Black Hills — the perfect destination for relaxing, exploring, and recharging.