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Named in honor of the former South Dakota governor who crusaded for the trail before his death in a plane crash in 1993, the George S. Mickelson Trail runs through the heart of the Black Hills, connecting Deadwood with Edgemont. The crushed-stone pathway incorporates nearly 100 converted railroad bridges and 4 tunnels, and much of it traverses national forest; however, some segments pass through private lands and users are asked to respect landowner rights.
In many places the trail is notched into the mountains—pressed up against granite walls to one side and dropping off steeply on the other. The granite gives way to slabs of slate stacked haphazardly like tall, thin texts on a bookshelf. Since the trail was completed in the fall of 1998 it has become one of the premier rail-trails in the West, rich with boom and bust history of gold mining, and challenging for bicyclists as it cuts through rugged mountain terrain.
The George S. Mickelson Trail's northern section cuts a curving course through mountains and ponderosa pine forests, over creeks and through narrow valleys by the towns of Deadwood, Lead, Rochford and Mystic. Every few miles it traverses a converted railroad bridge, some over trestles hundreds of feet high. Just south of Mystic, a once-thriving mining town, trail users encounter a 40-foot-long tunnel that was blasted through rock and lined with beams cut to fit the curving contours that give the tunnel its keyhole appearance.
From Hill City south through Custer to the White Elephant trailhead a few miles north of Custer features a gradually changing landscape, from mountains and corridors of ponderosa pine to high mountain meadows and the open prairie. Valleys stretch and cattle graze in the fields. You'll find many attractions close to this stretch of the trail, including the Crazy Horse Monument, which the trail passes north of Custer, and Mount Rushmore, located near Keystone 6 miles east of the trail in Hill City. In Custer, you can take a 3-mile spur to reach Custer State Park, which offers camping opportunities, wildlife viewing, and a replica of an 1874 log fort.
While it took less than 1 year to build the railroad line in the early 1890s, it took more than 15 years to develop the George S. Mickelson Trail (aka "the Big Mick") on the right-of-way, from 1983 when Burlington Northern abandoned what was known as the High Line to the trail's dedication in September 1998. In addition to the support provided by the late governor, the Black Hills Rails to Trails Association was integral in crusading for the railbanking of this corridor by the state and seeing it converted into a multi-use trail. With prodding from the local trail group, Burlington Northern donated the right-of-way to the state in 1989.
There are numerous access points and places to park along the George S. Mickelson Trail. A detailed map of the trail and trailhead information are available on the trail website (www.mickelsontrail.com).
The tail is very well marked and easy to follow but that is about all that is easy, for a recumbent rider at least. I had some chain issues on the first day and thankfully we started in Deadwood. That meant the closest bike shop was 15 miles away in Spearfish, Rushmore Sports. The trip was delayed by a day and we started in Custer to Hot Springs. Mostly downhill but the trail material packed gravel and it is slow! Hot Springs required 11 miles on the highway with a good sized hill into town. Next we hired a shuttle to the Dumont trailhead. This section is by far the most scenic and 18 miles downhill to Hill City but there are 2 long (7 & 10 mile) slow climbs from there to Custer. Finally we drove to Edgemont and rode north to the HghWy 18 trailhead. Again it is a shallow grade hill but it is slow going. NOTE the trail has MANY washouts where it is deeply rutted across the path with deep, loose sand which make going up even slower and going down, at speed, really hairy.
2 day ride starting in Deadwood, overnight in Hill City and on to Edgemont. Outstanding fall ride with a total of 8 other riders over 2 days. Mornings were cold but afternoons were into the 60s. Snow still present in N and NW facing slopes with the trail muddy in spots. Day 1 surface was firmer with smaller packed gravel. Rode 28mm tires and was fine all day. Day 2 changed to 35mm tires and found it helpful dealing with the freeze thaw mud. Overall one of the best R2T rides I have done. Trail maintenance and facilities were excellent! This is the sort of R2T other states should use as an example.
I did a 40 mile round trip on a hybrid, starting at Hill City. A local rider told me this was the nicest stretch of the trail. It took me through three of the four tunnels. Once you leave the Hill City outskirts, you're away from the highway and riding through some beautiful scenery.
This is a more challenging ride that most rail trails. The hills aren't steep, but they're long. Going north, you climb a long hill out of Hill City, reach a crest and then descend 7 miles before starting up and even longer hill.
It's hard to imagine a better managed trail than this. The the signage, the condition of the trail surface and the rest facilities are all excellent.
With a free day during our dude’s trip “Out West”, we snagged the chance to ride 33 miles from Dumont to Hill City. We rented our hybrid bikes at the first-rate, family owned rental company in Hill City. Our guide took us via the “backroads” route to Dumont where she entertained us with trail stories and local history…. what a great start! Dumont’s TH was nicely unassuming with clean restrooms & potable water. We crossed the road and started our southerly journey 18-mile downhill. This section of the trail was our favorite. We wound through the valleys of fragrant wildflowers, tall dark pines, gently running streams and exposed rocky slopes. Our lunch stop was by Rochford’s TH which is south of the town across from the fire department. We switchbacked up to the Rochford Mall (a must stop) for a meal of pre-packaged sandwiches, frozen burritos and some cold sodas. Continuing downhill we crossed the signature trestle over Rapid Creek but we knew the good times were going to end and it did at the Mystic TH. The uphill grade is gentle and doable but there are no flat recovery sections, but you can stop “to take pictures” at Tunnels A & B. After the “real” summit, the trial runs downhill through prairie-like areas toward Hill City. Note: at the intersection of E. Main Street, cross the street and ride the Walnut Ave. sidewalk in front of the railroad museum until you re-enter the trail behind the Quality Inn. When you finish, hang around Hill City where you can goof around for a while and enjoy a well-earned drink & meal at one of their many fine restaurants.
My wife and I bikepacked the trail from Deadwood to Edgemont. We took two days with a camp stop at Crooked Creek RV Park in Hill City. (We had planned to use the Oreville Forest Service campgroud, but Crooked Creek is right on the trail and, since it was unseasonably warm, the prospect of using the shower was too good to pass up.) Stopping there made the first day about 50 miles and the second 59 miles.
The Mickelson Trail is terrific. We most liked the sections away from roads, but even when the trail is close to roads it is so much more relaxing than riding on the shoulder. The surface is mostly pretty firm although it rained hard the night we spent in Hill City and there were a few placed that had washed a little, but it was no problem. We were in bikepacking mode and carried too much water. The periodic trail heads and rest shelters are great for stretch and snack stops.
In all, a great experience and a great trail.
Another great section starting from Mystic trailhead. Nice scenery, tunnel, including a great little falls to explore. Mystic trailhead has a bike tool air station which we thought was pretty darn nice to provide. Something we've only seen along Urban trails. Thank You SD for a great experience.
We have narrow tire bikes with Gatorskin tires and found the surface an easy ride. Some soft spots. It's a climb from Hill City to Red Fern where you can refill canteens and find shelter. After Red Fern it's downhill. We rode as far as tunnel 2, mile marker 73, then back. Once you hit Red Fern, it's a welcome downhill all the way back. We enjoyed the trip
We did this trail in sections, doing a 15 mile section out and back each day.
First the pluses. Nice surface, well maintained with fairly good facilities for the whole trail. From Hill city north is interesting and with nice scenery.
South of Hill City most of the trail is beside a highway. Traffic noise not great. At the south end there is about 100yds between the highway and a railroad. The trail is between them. Much of the south end is open country and not a lot of trees.
If you do it make sure you pay the fee and get a pamphlet. Coming into Hill City from the north you'll have trouble following the trail without the pamphlet map. If you start in Edgemont, some info says the TH is on main st. There is no Main St.
My 22 yr old son and I took 2 rides. We stayed at a KOA by Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse. We started at Hill City and took off North. The trail was well maintained and the scenery beautiful. I didn't fair as well going with the incline (I guess the altitude was getting to me) so we didn't go far and returned to the trailhead (#8) We did go back the next day to Hill City and headed south to Custer. It is a steady incline for 8.5 miles, then a little bit steeper as you incline another 1.5 up to Crazy Horse (So 10 miles incline) After that down hill into Custer another 6.5 to the trailhead. We ate lunch and headed back to Hill City. As some of the other comments, Go Prepared to hit different weather while on the trail. I got rained on, but my son who was ahead of me a couple of miles did not. It was cool, hot, dry, and wet. There was 1 water station between Hill City and Custer (that I saw) Again, the trail is beautiful and well maintained. The altitude did get to me so the incline was a little tough but welll worth the ride. Be sure to buy the trail pass. There is a bike patrol that checks tags.
We just returned from this beautiful epic trail. We rode the trail from Custer to Deadwood in two days.We stayed in Custer as our base. Highly recommend the Rocket Hotel as a place to stay and its easy access to the trail. We started out heading North from Custer to Mystic. You begin a five mile gentle up hill climb. After ten miles is the welcomed sight of Hill City. Get any items you may need here. This is a larger town and has places to eat, drink and food stores. Most right along the trail path. Heading out of Hill City northbound you will be rolling downhill for about 8 miles before entering the beautiful area of Mystic. There is no town of Mystic. We unaware of this were caught by surprise and were nearing the depletion of our food and water. The next town north is Rochford. We were informed by a native that the trek would take us 8 miles up hill and that the Rochford establishment may or may not be open. We opted to return to base. This required a grueling 9 mile climb back to Hill City. This was the steepest portion of the trail. This was a 4 degree grade up hill. Once we returned to Hill City we restocked our food and had lunch. We returned back to Custer in the early evening. The next day we drove from our base at The Rocket Hotel and traveled to Deadwood and rode the trail from Deadwood to Rochford. This was a great ride and we were well prepared for the journey. All though hilly and some steep grades especially neat Deadwood we found this portion of the trail to be relatively easy compared to the day before. The trail is spectacular from Custer to Deadwood and at every curve the scenery changes. The northern section of the trail is mostly forest. In my opinion. There is no section to start at to make it less hilly as you will climb hills. This trail is rated as easy and we all found it to be more of a intermediate trail.We also had expectations of riding a century ride on the trail and and we were 40 miles short. Primarily due to the missing town of Mystic and questionable food source in Rochford. The 60 miles we did in one day felt like a century ride though. All in all this trail is all it is said to be. There is ample wildlife. We saw Cows, Horse, Wild Turkeys, Deer, Elk,Falcons,Eagles,Green Snakes, Raddle Snake.The trail was lightly traveled on our visit (weekday). The town and surrounding area establishments close up at 9 p.m.. This trail rocked and we rocked 84 miles of it. Highly recommended this gem.
It took us 7 days of out and backs, but we completed this trail from end to end and back again. This was the most difficult rail trail we have ever ridden on our MT bike tandem, and we have ridden many in the last 20+ years. We stayed at a motel in Hill City, and each day drove our car to a new starting point. The elevation, heat and 2%, 3%, and 4% gravel trail limited our usual mileage of 45+ to closer to mid 30s. If you have the time ride the trail in both directions. It is now our new top destination trail. We are from eastern Pa. and the 1800 mile trip to get there was well worth the effort. Pa. Tandem Team. Roger and Marilyn,70 and 67 years old.
Five riders ranging in ages from 25 to 70 rode the trail in mid July. We took two day to cover the trail staying in Hill City. We also had a chase vehicle to drop and pick us up.
Some of the the hills were challenging but the views and variety across the miles made up for the hard hills. Adequate water stations were important since it was July.
In the first hour out of Deadwood we were spread out over about a mile. The lead rider was in sunshine, the next rider was in rain, the last three enjoyed a brief hail storm, all at the same time.
We would like to ride the trail again all in one day. We only have happy memories.
Just completed 28 miles backpacking this trail with a friend and my dog. Started in deadwood and ended in Rochford. Great trail with nice easy grades and great scenery. Plenty of streams for water and several water fill up locations made the trek very enjoyable. Looking back, we do wish we would have started near Rochford and ended near Custer. Supposed to be better scenery, tunnels etc. but overall we had a great time!
Early Fall--Great time of the year to ride this trail. Colors are changing. Have ridden over 150 Miles in the last week covering the entire trail. My favorite trail to ride. The climbs are all railroad grade (long but not real steep), Recommend it to everyone.
Three of the "Rusty Chain Gang" rode the trail in three days this past weekend. First time to the Black Hills and really did not know what to expect. We had to do a little dodging as there was an Air Force Marathon from Rochford to Deadwood and the big bike ride of 600 riders from Edgemont to Deadwood.
What shocked me was how the terrain would drastically change from one mile to the next. Even the surface of the trail was constantly changing. We saw some beautiful scenery and you have to be alert to what you might find on the trail. As a Midwestern moving cattle off the trail is no big deal but hoped we didn't come across a stubborn bull.
What a beautiful trail and area! South Dakota did it right by making this trail.
I rode the trail from Hill City to Rochford last week. It was a great ride. It was a pretty good climb both ways near the summit at the Red Fern stop.
The tunnels that you go through are a piece of cake. Stop at the saloon in Rochford and have a burger and a beverage!
Our family hiked on the Mickelson Trail on our epic National Park vacation in July 2015. We were visiting Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills NP. I chose to walk from mile 72 to 74, just north of Hill City SD, because there were two tunnels and a trestle on this stretch of the trail. The tunnels were cut through the mountain and reinforced with wood timbers cut to form arches and water still seeped through the rock. The wooden trestle bridge crossed over the road and a creek. This stretch of the trail has a slight downhill slope from Mi 72 to 74 and is a cut and fill roadbed cut through multi-colored shale with abundant green vistas and a nice stream. I highly recommend this stretch of the trail.
Not sure if this is the proper place ofr a question but here goes.
I am considering doing this trail in early fall. i would like to cycle one way from Sturgis to Edgemount. I would like to shuttle back to my car in Sturgis and wondering if there is any service in Edgemount that can shuttle me back. Is there a bus service or anything else there?
By firstname.lastname@example.org in August, 2014
My son, my 14-year old grandson and myself, spent a wonderful three days on the Trail the first part of August, 2014. We rented bikes from Rabbit Bicycle and Black Hills Shuttle, who are located right next to the trail in Hill City. We received very personal service from the owners, who shuttled us every day to and from the trail. We also rented a beautiful cabin from them. The trail is very scenic with plenty of wildlife, especially deer, not to mention lots of domestic cattle on the ranches on and adjacent to the trail. The grades of the trail are not suppose to exceed 4%, but there were a few tough grades, that felt steeper than that, especially for a 74-year old grandfather, but the reward was coasting back down the other side of the hill. We had great weather and fairly mild temperatures. The trail and the trailheads with potable water and toilets are well maintained. We were lucky to time our ride a week before the Sturgis Rally. The Harleys don't ride the trail, of course, but they do put a crunch on motels as well as pack restaurants to capacity. This was the trip of a life time for all three of us, but especially me, a long time Black Hills visitor.
Being a recent breast cancer treatment survivor, riding on the trail was on my list of things to accomplish this summer. Went out Sept. 7 - 13, starting with hikes in the Badlands--definitely worth doing the Window Hike close to the Ben Riefel Visitor Center there! We saw 2 big horn sheep on that short hike. With 7 inches of snow on our 3rd day, Thurs., I didn't get to bike until Fri. Started in the city of Custer, going west towards Crazy Horse monument. You get to ride a bit thru town, and are quickly along side a mountain pond. Beautiful scenery. I din't make it to Crazy Horse as it was evening. The 2nd day, Sat., I started at the Burlington Northern trailhead and headed to Crazy Horse. Made it. Enjoyed the views of Crazy Horse from the trail. I'll definitely be back to bike the whole length--hopefully next summer. I appreciate the other reviews as I planned on going south to north, but have now changed my mind and will go Deadwood to Edgemont. Just have to get in better physical shape.
I think my photos will do a better job of describing the amazing time we had exploring this trail than I ever could. We explored the area as well as the trail. The 1880 train, the museum and shops. Hill City is a good central location to the most scenic parts of the trail, which was where we stayed. Good food and lodging as well. I recommend the Alpine for lunch (too busy at dinner). The fact that an unusual amount of rain in the weeks before we arrived made it lush and green with lots of wildflowers blooming and an abundance of wildlife. It was very windy, gusts over 30mph. We stopped at Rabbit Bicycle got a really good trail map and some good advice that made our trip the best! The map shows elevation, helpful to know what to expect. The scenery from Rochford to White Elephant is the best, with tunnels and old mines by Mystic, rocky and hilly in the north, meadow and prairie in the south. You can see the Crazy Horse Memorial from the trail near Custer. This is a trip I would do again and again.
Awesome trail! We spread the ride over 3 days the 1st of June to take in site seeing in the afternoons. Mountain conditions, so you have a chance of showers in the afternoon. We had, what seemed like, our own private trail, except for meeting the same Trail Ranger twice on the trail who could double as a tour guide. You pass through 3 towns of 30 to 1,400 population and there is plenty of lodging in Hill City and Custer. Several bike companies available for rentals and shuttles. At 5,000ft + there are a few hills (miles) that get your heart working. Otherwise, miles of flat to slight grades. Pastures,cattle, horses, old mines, possible bison,deer,llamas, and prong horns. The books and races direct you south to north but we did the opposite direction. The 43 miles from Custer to Edgemont is a trip from 5,500 ft pines to 3,500ft high plains. No camping along the trail but plenty or reasonable hotels in Deadwood, Hill City and Custer, from Edgemont you should shuttle back to Custer or your car. Several entry points along the trail with parking. If altitude or hills are a problem the shuttles can help. The Black Hills are incredible.
I rode the trail several yrs ago near Hill City after enjoying the 2 hr train ride there. I ran out of time to see as much as I would have liked. Don't go alone, as the cougars caution info is a bit frightening for a woman alone. I still enjoyed the beautiful back country atmosphere. This trail is worth any travel necessary to get there. The entire state of South Dakota still ranks as my most beautiful that I have been;haven't been to Alaska yet, though, but you can see from these pics that this is a beauty, indeed. Enjoy!!!
This was my first Rail-Trail experience, and I know there's others that may be more scenic, but really, this trail has it all. The trailheads are spaced well and most have toilets, shelters & water. There's also additional shelters along the trail. Numerous towns help in that if you do run out of something, you can always pop in to Custer or Hill City or any of the other numerous towns to get whatever you need.
The scenery is wonderful. Mountains, streams, fun old bridges, decrepit mines, beautiful log homes....
The trail itself is very hard crushed gravel and even when I cycled it in a sudden rainstorm, it did not get mucky. The rocks are also small enough size that you don't have to worry about wipeouts.
Regretably I had several days of lightning storms so only managed to ride 2 days, 2 different portions of the trail. If you cycling this in July (when it's HOT), I recommend cycling down to Edgemont. I climbed up from Edgemont on a day when the mercury was in excess of 100 degrees, and had to turn around at the 16 mile mark because it was just too hot and there's NO shade on the southern bit of the trail.
I highly recommend this trail. It's not too hard - although there's some good steady climbs. But the scenery and amenities allow any cyclist to be able to ride it.
Four of us took three days to ride the Mickelson Trail in late July of this year. Among our group were those that had ridden many rail trails including the Sun Trail and trails in Italy and Europe. The consensus among our group was that the Mickelson Trail ranked very favorably among any of the other trails that we had ridden in terms of beauty and upkeep. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather and were surprised to find very few riders on the trail. The three day ride was very relaxed and allowed time to appreciate and photograph the beautiful scenery.
Several recommendations for riding. Three days gives about forty five miles a day, if a side trip to Mt. Rushmore is included. We had motels in Deadwood, Hill City, Custer and Edgemont. Ride north to south from Deadwood to Edgemont and you will have a great ride of about thirty miles downhill the last day. It is easy to have your car shuttled from Deadwood to Edgemont. Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse are stops that should be included. Crazy Horse is just off of the trail, but Rushmore involves about twenty miles of riding off of the trail with some hills. There are also many short rides that can be arranged with the many trailheads
If riding in the summer, don't ride the same weekend as the Sturgis event, we were fortunate and missed it by one week. The weather was in the seventies and beautiful when we rode, but I am sure that it can be hot normally.
We had no problem with water or facilities on the trail. Be sure to stop at Rochford at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon to get something to eat.
Buy the Trail Guide for the Mickelson Trail book before you go. It has great information about the individual trailheads, towns, motels, and anything else that you might want to know. You can order it from the Mickelson Trail website - http://www.mickelsontrailaffiliates.com
Consider the Mickelson Trail if you want incredible scenery and a great biking experience! We will be back!
So I'm enjoying a no-pedal descent toward the first tunnel when I hit some invisible sharp rock and my tire blows out. Thanks to my Slime tube I didn't lose all of my air and wipe out. I just needed to make sure there was nothing sticking out of the tire, add some air and continue on.
Other than that moment of terror this was a great trail. The ascent from a few miles north of Hill City to the pass was steady, the descent to Mystic a bit more steep. It doesn't seem like it on the trail brochure's topographical map, but I'd start at Mystic and go south if I had it to do again.
We continued to the third tunnel and returned to Hill City for about 36 mile round-trip. The surface is stone but well compacted and (except for that one rock) no problem for my road bike with 700x28 tires. There are facilities all along the way; we saw a Rails-To-Trails award posted at the Mystic trailhead.
I get to western South Dakota every few years on vacation and I hope to ride another part of this trail next time.
Myself and 5 others from Denver CO rode the Mickelson trail during the official ride September 14 - 15 - 16th -- the colors of the leaves and the trail were exceptional -- the weather was very nice and cooperated for the entire three days. the trail was VERY WELL supported and loved every second of the experience.
I was able to ride the Mickelson a couple weeks ago. I did two sections, from Hill City to Crazy Horse, and from Deadwood to Englewood. It was a great ride, no problem with the surface and I have 1.5" tires. Can't wait to ride it again!
This has to rate as a Jewel for its Scenery and a crushed stone surfaced trail. I was able to pedal from Deadwood to Kirk & return, late afternoon on 19 Oct, and then the next day, from Mystic Trailhead to Rochford Trailhead & return on my Tri-Cruiser. Noel Keller 19 & 20 Oct 2011
Tim, Paul, and I rode the entire Mickelson Trail on October 16, 2010. Started at Edgemont just after sun-up at 7:30 AM and coasted into Deadwood at 5:30 PM. The weather cooperated nicely, with minimal wind and temps that hovered around 50 degrees. Not bad for mid-October in the Black Hills!
The trail was in perfect condition, except for some washed out edge sections close to Deadwood. (I think they had some very heavy rains the week before). I'm certain that will be fixed before Spring, based on how well maintained this trail system is. The trailheads still had water, so we didn't have to carry an over-abundance of the wet stuff with us. That helped keep us light.
We rode a variety of bikes. Tim's was a Trek mountainbike with non-aggressive tires. Paul rode a Redline cyclo-cross bike that he had just acquired. I rode a Trek 7500 cross-over with a light front shock. I don't think there was any clear cut advantage by one bike over another. The most important thing for finishing a one day trek in daylight, I believe, was to stay away from aggressive mountain bike tires and also to keep the bike as light as possible.
We stopped in Hill City and bought a replacement tube at Rabbit Bicycles. More importantly, however, we got advice as to where to grab a bite to eat. We were told to check either The Alpine Inn, The Bumpin Buffalo, or the Slate Creek Grill. We decided on the double 'B' though all options appeared viable. We all had a nice sandwich and a celebratory beer. Paul was pleased to find that the double 'B' had PBR on tap! PBR is Pabst Blue Ribbon for those who don't know about bad beers.
We departed Hill City at about 1:30 and kept a fairly steady, uninterrupted pace the rest of the way. Arriving at Deadwood with cold hands, another cold beer awaited us at the trailhead. Despite my cold hands, the cold beer was very appreciated.
We look forward to doing this again, but probably will wait til 2011.
Tom Hammerquist - Gillette, Wy
We biked this trail in September 2010. It is amazing. Well-maintained. You will get such diverse scenery and conditions. I would rate this trail difficult. We rode Trek hybrid bicycles. Beautiful. I highly recommend it. We rode three days and used two trucks for our shuttles. We were camped at Custer at an RV park.
Hello from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada! My husband and I rode the trail on June 30 - July 4, 2010. The trail surpassed our expectations. On day one, we parked our car at Hill City and biked to Deadwood in one afternoon, and continued down the whole trail from there making our next home base out of Custer. The trail between Hill City and Deadwood is a beautiful ride with tunnels, quiet, peaceful country sights and an amazing town at the end of the trail. The temperature was 91F when we left Hill City so we were very grateful for the access to water along the routes. Along the trail, we had the opportunity to watch deer feeding, and observe the many wonders including Crazy Horse Memorial. The trail was in good to excellent condition and both of us will share this wonderful experience with our local bike shop so others can enjoy the joys and pleasures of biking without traffic. Thank you to rails-to-trail for providing a detailed map.
this was my first big bike ride, and it was great. we rode north to south, meaning that Day 2 was a joyride of nearly 40 miles of gradual downhill to the finish in Edgemont.
i grew up in the black hills area and thought i'd prefer the deadwood-hill city section of trail, but the southern half actually turned out to be really spectacular--saw lots of deer between custer and pringle, and the sheep canyon section was beautiful. (we had rain on Day 2, though, and the area was still really green from an abnormally wet spring, so our experience might be somewhat atypical. i can imagine the pringle to edgemont section could be brutal in hot, dry late summer weather.)
trail was in great condition throughout (aside from slightly less-packed gravel near White Elephant TH), shelters were nice, and interpretive signs were interesting. lots of people were using the trails near lead/deadwood, dumont, rochford, hill city, and custer; we saw hardly anybody on the southern end of the trail.
we camped on public lands just off-trail between hill city and custer. we talked to another rider who recommended Crooked Creek Campground (which is accessible from the trail).
this trail convinced me that RT touring should be an addition to my list of fun outdoor adventures. :)
I was trying to see if there was a transfer/shuttle service from the South end back to the North?? I want to ride the trail but not both ways. Ha.
My wife and daughter and I have ridden the entire trail (109 miles) and have visited the area several times in the last year just to ride the trail. The towns, with motels, are well spaced to do the ride in 2-4 days. For those camping, the trail goes partly through national forest where one can camp anywhere, while Hill City has a beautiful private campground (with a few motel rooms) with nice grass and a creek right next to the trail. Many of the trailheads along the way have a nice shelter with picnic table and water pump. Overall there is quite a bit of elevation change, but being a rail trail there are no steep hills. We prefer to start in Deadwood, where there are good accommodations, and ride north to south, following the general elevation loss. The first 14 miles are mostly uphill to the high point, just over 6,000', following a creek and passing the Homestake Gold Mine, now closed but in operation for more than 100 years and more than a mile below the surface. Late in September last year we had to turn around before reaching the summit due to snow drifts still on the trail from an early September storm. The next 18 miles, from Dumont to Mystic, are almost all downhill. This section is our favorite as the trail leaves sight of any road and follows delightful streams, crosses numerous trestles and goes through several tunnels. Numerous relics and sites from old mining operations can be seen. After Deadwood, the next place with accommodations on the trail is Hill City. (The Alpine Inn serves only one dinner that attracts many and often requires a wait: filet mignon, with 1/4 head of lettuce, potato, toast and many desserts, $8 small, $9 large, desserts extra). The climb south from Hill City reaches a high point at the Crazy Horse monument. This is a granite mountain ridge being shaped into a statue of Crazy Horse (begun in 1947), in the same fashion as the Mt. Rushmore granite likenesses of the four presidents. From Crazy Horse it's 6 miles of great downhill to Custer, the last town with accommodations. A few miles south of Custer, the trail goes through more open and drier country. Part of this section leaves the highway and then joins it, following right next to it for a few miles. The relatively steep drops on the last stage from the Minnekhata trailhead make for some big panoramas of the eastern Wyoming plains. The finish in Edgemont, a barely surviving town supported primarily by the railroad, is a bit of disappointment. The trail has to actually yield to still-in-use rail sidings a mile or two before town, requiring bikers to ride in the borrow pit between the railroad and the highway. The trail then follows town streets to arrive at a the official trail end in a park. Those who live along the trail say that biking is better later rather than earlier in the summer when the moisture in the road base has dried out. For those who desire to repeat a section (or cutout an uphill section) shuttle services are available in Hill City and the little burg of Rochford.
Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills is the most stunning bike ride I've ever experienced!! We rode on a windy day in late June, thinking the headwind might blow us all over the trail, but the beautiful surrounding Black Hills shielded us for the most part and we were able to enjoy a beautiful afternoon of riding and breathtaking scenery. We rode from the Mystic Trailhead (don't be deterred by the dusty county road required to get there), through the bottom of gorges and cool rock tunnels, alongside a lovely, swift-running stream, and across 50 foot high wooden bridges , to the small burg of Rochford, where we stopped for a marvelously cold beer at the Dry Gulch Saloon. It is a steady climb north to Rochford, but a mostly easy (and appreciated) coast back south to Mystic. Driving alongside part of the trail from Hill City to Mystic, there appeared to be some excellent scenery along that section as well. Someday I hope to return and ride it!
I was hoping to be able to download gpx files of the trail here. Is that available? I have traveled much of this trail and enjoy the tunnels between Hill City and Silver City. I have already placed some geocaches along this trail. I'm hoping to do a marathon here in June 09. The Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon.
I'm from Virginia and rode a number of trails on a three week trip of 13 states. The George Mickelson Trail was one of my favorites. I first learned of it when I saw it feature as the tail of the month in the Convervancy magazine. I rode the 60 miles from Dumont to Pringle (breaking it into a two day ride. The surface was great and the scenery was beautiful
"I ride the Mickelson Trail alot during the warmer months and love the central section between Hill City and Rochford the best. It's great to have a safe place to ride, with gentler grades, than the highways near my home midway between Rapid City and Deadwood."
In early June a group of Wisconsin retirees visited the Black Hills for some biking and hiking. We drove from Hill City to the Mystic Trailhead and rode north toward Rochford. The trail was in good shape and all the trailheads we passed were in great shape with water and shelter. The scenery is awesome on this section with many close encounters with mountain streams. We rode through Tunnel C and past Rochford to Tunnel D. At this point we turned around and rode back to Rochford for a beer and lunch. Do not miss the Moonshine Gulch Saloon in Rochford. After returning to the Mystic Trailhead we rode south a bit to experience Tunnels B and A. This last section to Tunnels B and A is a good grade up hill but the ride/coast back to the car was worth it. I would recommend this ride since it lets you see all the tunnels and covers a very picturesque section of the trail.
Our other favorite ride was the wildlife loop in Custer State Park. We rode it early in the morning and found the car traffic to be a minimum and the wildlife viewing excellent.
"Just wanted to say thank you to the people of South Dakota for making this trail a reality. My wife and I came up from Colorado over Memorial Day weekend (2006)and rode the entire length of the trail. We pulled trailers and camped on National Forest land. All the trail is well maintained with water and shelters along the way. The interpretive signs are a great asset to it all. Of course the scenery is awesome as are the people who live nearby the path.
We started in Deadwood which is very interesting and headed south. Lots of great countryside, cool trestles and tunnels to see. Got rained out near Hill City one night and ended up in the Harney Hotel there in town. A welcome respite for two wet bikers. The rain was desperately needed so no complaints here. We ended up in Edgemont and visited the museum there and then reluctantly headed home.
If you want to experience a great ride then go on out to SD and ride this trail. One thing to note is that when the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska is completed it will be possible to ride your bike from Deadwood, SD to Norfolk, NE with most of it on trail and an easy road connection in between. Have a great ride!
"September 2nd, 2005, We rode the section from Custer, north to the summit, just past the Mountain Trailhead and back. Trail was compatible with our hybrid bikes although several spots were a little soft. This section was well maintained trail and very scenic.
September 3rd, We rode from Rochford Trailhead, north to about a mile short of the Dumont Trailhead and back – the heat and lack of shade got us. Went through Tunnel D on the way. Even more scenic than the Custer section. Very few soft spots. Access road, SD 237, is a wide, hard packed, low dust level road and a good shortcut to Rochford and Mystic from US 385.
September 4th, Best of our 3 days. We started at Mystic Trailhead and went south to Tunnels B and A (up hill) then north to Rochford and back. This allowed us to see Tunnel C also. The varied scenery was awesome.
Summary: All the tunnels were very well maintained with wire screening preventing any rocks from falling on users. Water and facilities were excellent. Trail very well maintained. We think we were able to capture the essence of the whole trail by doing these three sections. We are in our 70s and found the trail to be challenging but not overwhelming.
"I have just finished the 2005 Mickelson Trial Trek, which was 109 miles from Edgemont to Deadwood and was very impressed with the ride and the organization of the ride. There is talk of increasing the amount of riders to 2,000. I hope that this does not happen becquse it will significantly decrease the desirability of this incredible ride. This year the number of riders was 530 and that in approaching the max. Let's not let revenue collection ruin this ride for future participants. "
"We rode the Hill City to Custer section and the Hill City to Mystic section. trail in great shape but bridge approaches and surfaces need some work. Rode early a.m. to avoid the heat and had a great time, lots of deer at that time of day. Trail is on par with some of WI and MN best."
"September 2004: Due to time constraints, we were able to do only the portion of the trail between Dumont and Rochford, but it was very enjoyable and relaxing. We coasted most of the way. There are numerous bridges and one tunnel. A stream follows the trail quite a ways. I highly recommend this trail!"
"We rode most of the Mickelson from Custer to Deadwood the first week in October, 2004. We couldn't have enjoyed ourselves more. The scenery is wonderful and the surface is fine, even for our road bikes (700 x 32 tires)."
"We rode this trail in early September 2003. This was truly a nice trail with pretty scenery, a good riding surface, and some but not many rest stops. All the little towns on the trail had services, but there were not many towns. We stayed in Custer and got sagged to a couple of different starting points. Custer had lots of places to stay and many good eats. This trail definitely makes for a good ride."
"The Mickelson Trek is put on by the State of S.D. Parks every Sept. This is a must ride. The trail is the greatest and the State supports for the three day ride are the best. People came from 22 States in the 2002 ride so you meet a lot of great people.
The 2002 cost was $125.00 and is the best deal you will ever get on trail ride in the U.S. The hotels give discounts for riders also. Ride the Trek at least once in your life. I meet a rider from St Louis, Mo. who was 80 years old and had ridden in all 5 Treks!!"
"I live in the Black Hills and we have numerous beautiful trails to ride, but we love this trail. Our particular favorite is Dumont to Mystic, with a stop at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon at Rochford."
"We rode the Mickelson Trail in its entirety in July. We have ridden numerous ""rails-trails"" and this is by far the best that we have encountered. It is exceptionally well maintained. The scenery varies from mountains to range land to canyons to desert; it is all sensational. For the most part the trail is far from major highways and gives a true wilderness experience.
There are only two short segments (from the Pringle trailhead to the White Elephant trailhead and the first five miles North of Edgemont) that I would not repeat in a future ride of the trial. The segments that we enjoyed the most were from the Dumont Trailhead to Custer and from the Minnekahta Trailhead to the junction with Highway 18 just North of Edgemont. "
"I rode the Mickelson Trail from Custer to Hill City. The scenery was nice, but our bikes (mountain at that) got bogged down in some areas of the trail that were quite soupy. We were going to continue on but I found the Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co. and decided to call it a day. Cliff, the owner is a great guy so if you are in the area, say hi."
"We rode the whole trail! What a wonderful memory! There were 4 couples and two of our friends in a van who shuttled our gear. Over all we loved the trail. My advice is to carry a lot of water and take lots of layers of clothes, including hats and gloves. The weather was cool in late June, and we ran into a LOT of rain on the third day. We went from Deadwood to Carsten Cottages (not far after reaching the end of the 16 mile climb out of Deadwood.) We especially enjoyed Carsten Cottages for a group stay. In the morning, after a wonderful buffet breakfast provided by Carsten Cottages we began the ride to Hill City. The first 16 miles or so were all downhill through such beautiful mountain pastures surrounded by mountains and accompanied much of the way by a lovely little mountain stream.
In Hill City we stayed at the Comfort Inn. The price was steep, but the stay was comfortable and convenient to the town shops. There is a 50's style restaurant where we all went to and enjoyed shakes with the extra helping that goes with it in the silver canester! Yummm!
The third day was rainy, but the scenery was beautiful with the mist hanging over the mountain peaks around us. Be sure to take a variety of layers of clothes. The temperature changes often on this ride as you ascend and decend mountains. We got soaked in a cold rain on our ride down from Crazy Horse Monument to Custer. We ended up hiring a shuttle to take us and our bikes to our next stop which was at Plenty Star Ranch. Before we got in the shuttle van we went to the local laundry and ""stripped"" our wet-sandy clothes. This was when we were grateful to have the sag-wagon van drivers. They delivered to us hot-chocolate and dry clothes.
Some of our group felt the Plenty Star was a disappointment. Especially those in our party who stayed in the TeePees. They felt $45 was too much for sleeping in a cold tent. We also thought dinner was over-priced but it was easier than jumping in the van and heading back to Custer for supper or shopping and cooking our own. The last day was a warm one as we slowly decended out of the high altitudes and into the desert.
There was no water on the trail, so take lots of it. Also, your cell phones and walky talkys won't always work in this mountainous area.
"I rode the beautiful, peaceful distance between Hill City and Westmont. Forest sights normally not seen from most biking trails. Well maintained. I will ride the trail again."
"Annual maintenance has brought this trail to an exceptional level of riding. New bridges in the Deadwood area, a few new trailheads and some maintenance makes this trail appear almost new. An enjoyable ride can be found at any section along it's 110+ mile stretch."
"I have been mountain bike riding in the Black Hills for 10+ years, and this trail has provided some of the best scenery and riding that I have ever experienced. There are basically no bug or mousquitoes to deal with and the weather always seems to be cooperatative. The portion between Deadwood and Hill city provide the most scenic and rustic rides of the trail.. The four tunnels are included in this portiob as well. Lots of wildlife and flowers, flowers, flowers."
"My buddies and I rode this trail from Deadwood to Custer in three different stages; Deadwood to Rochford, Rochford to Hill City, and Hill City to Custer. We hauled our bikes to the starting point the second and third day and hoteled in the Deadwood area. All three segments were rustic and scenic. Being a Railroad right of way, the gradient was very managable going uphill.
This trail is crushed rock, but does not pack like the crushed limestone trails in Iowa. As a result, there were patches of the trail that would shift under your tire,especially on curves and when approaching bridges. A road bike would not be a good idea. There were a couple of spots where cattle were on the trail, but luckily none of them were bulls! There were quite a few gates that you have to go through because of the livestock, but they all had nice openers/closers on them that allowed you to pass through without having to dismount.
The portions of the trail we rode on were new and/or very well maintained. The only maintenance item I can think of relates to the planks on the bridges. Some of them wrarped after being installed. If the ends were not nailed down they bowed up. Just keep your eye out for them on the bridges and ride in the middle when possible. The map published by the Department of Parks and Recreation is also very well done and provides good elevation information.
There were good stops in Rochford, Hill City, and Custer, so food and water should not be a concern. Two water bottles on a hot day would be important because there are no water stops between the towns. The trailhead in Hill City heading south is poorly marked but it is just east of the main highway through the town. Have a great ride!!
"Our group of 6 adults and two children rode 35 miles of this breath-takingly beautiful trail. The scenery from Rochford to Mystic was unbelievable and the added benefit was that is was a gentle downhill ride. We also rode from Dumont to Deadwood, the first couple of miles were slight incline but the rest was downhill, more brakes than peddling. Highly recommend this trail."
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