Devils Gulch in Garrison SD

Hiking the Breathtaking Devil’s Gulch in Garretson South Dakota

Devil’s Gulch SD is one of those places that are filled with mystery, beauty, rocky cliffsides, and waterfalls. The gulch is relatively small but makes for a great place to explore. This roadside stop is a great place to explore.

When I heard about the rumors of Jesse James using the Gulch to escape, I had to see it for myself. I couldn’t believe what was there as we were hiking Devil’s Gulch in Garretson South Dakota.

Hiking Devils Gulch

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How deep is Devil’s Gulch South Dakota?

Devils’ Gulch is a 18-foot canyon with a 60-foot drop. The edges of the canyon is made up of a quartz rock with stunning red edges.

The Devil’s Gulch hiking trail is a popular attraction in Garrison, SD. The trail winds its way through the dramatic gorge, passing by several overlooks and waterfalls.

There are also several hiking trails available that lead to Devil’s Falls Crossbridge and the infamous jump-bridge.

The visitor kiosk has brochures with information about the area’s features, plants, and wildlife.

How did Devil’s Gulch SD get its name?

Devil’s Gulch can be found in Garrison SD and was given its name by the early homesteaders. The gulch was a narrow path between two mesas that was difficult to cross.

Legend has it that a devil lifted a man over his shoulder and carried him down the gulch.

The Jesse James Legend

The story is, Jesse James was making his escape after the disastrous Northfield robbery attempt. He had lost some people in his gang during the robbery and separated from the others in Minnesota, hoping to escape.

The largest manhunt in US history was started with every farmer and marshal out looking for him.

How far did Jesse James jump?

The posse was hot on his heels when he reached Garretson SD. With no other choice for escape, he jumped the 20 feet chasm called Devil’s Gulch on horseback.

Or that is the story. The town has taken the folklore and embraced it. You can see buildings named for Jesse James and his name plastered all over the town.

Jesse James and Younger Gang Legacy are littered all over Minnesota. Check out these two locations to find out where the infamous raid took place and what happened to those that were captured!
The failed Northfield Raid
See where the Younger brothers were jailed

Fact or Fiction. Did Jesse James jump Devil’s Gulch?

The biggest concern with the story is that it leaves off his brother Frank. They split up from the Younger group soon after Mankato. Based on records of their trajectory, they passed the area several miles south of Garrison.

They also had a pair of iron-grey mares that were completely used up by the time they reached this part of their journey. Jesse’s horse wouldn’t have the energy to make a leap like that.

The gorge itself is relatively small, and it would have been easy for him to find his way around it. Why would he need to jump it?

Almost all historians discount the tale, as well as Shot All to Hell: Bad Ass Outlaws, Gunfighters, and Law Men of the Old West. 

If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend you pick up the book. It does a great job of telling the full tale without glorifying the bandits.

Pick up your copy of Shot All to Hell: Bad Ass Outlaws, Gunfighters, and Law Men of the Old West and find out more about the escape!
Devil's Gulch SD Canyon

Hiking Devil’s Gulch SD

The real reason for visiting Devil’s Gulch Park in Garretson South Dakota, has nothing to do with the folklore. We came to hike the trail. The trail is relatively small.

For the most part, the park is an exploration of your own. There is a sign with points of interest to find.

Once you reach the locations, you’ll find markers to let you know you’ve reached the right spot. This is frustrating to some, but I found it very refreshing.

It felt like being a kid again, taking random paths, climbing boulders, and seeing where they lead.

The city does have an official map, but again, the stone pathways make it hard to know exactly where you are.

The Trailhead at Devils Gulch

The trailhead has you crossing the Jesse James Jump bridge. This footbridge is made from a wire grate. Down below is Split Rock Creek.

My poor puppy froze up after making it two steps on the bridge. I’m not sure if the grate was painful on her paws or if the thought of standing over a ravine was more than enough for her to handle. Let’s just say, if she was a few pounds heavier, she would have stayed in the car.

Foot Bridge at Devil's Gulch SD
Hiking Devils Gulch

With an explorer’s mindset, we took the path to the left, and up the hill.

In Devil’s Gulch SD, there are pathways that lead left to the base of the gulch. From there, you can see the bridge and some of the red quartzite cliffs.

We swung right to the rocky path and the waterfall observation point. This gives you the best view of the unique formation of the gulch. The trail continues around to cross Devil’s Galls Cross Bridge and a close-up view of the waterfall.

Waterfall Overlook at Devils Gulch
Above the Falls at Devil's Gulch SD

How long is the Devil’s Gulch Trail?

The Devil’s Gulch Trail in South Dakota is only about 1 mile long. You probably only need 45 minutes to explore it all. 

Where to stay near Devil’s Gulch SD?

There are a couple of places to stay. The first is near Split Rock Creek State Park. It’s a few miles away and connects with the creek through Devil’s Gulch. Another great option is to stay in Sioux Falls South Dakota.

There is plenty of other great things to do while you are there. I loved exploring the small town.

We ended up visiting Devils’ Gulch when we were staying at Blue Mounds State Park in Southern MN.

Favorite places to stay near Devils Gulch?
10 of the Best Things To Do in Sioux Falls South Dakota
Best Hikes at Blue Mounds State Park and other things to do

Would I Hike Devil’s Gulch SD Again?

I thought it made for a fun stop, and worth a look. I would head back to Devil’s Gulch SD if there if the weather was cooler than 90 degrees.

The canyon is gorgeous with cool rock formations throughout. When you are in the area, make sure to check out Palisades State Park, just a few miles south. There is a great swimming area there.

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