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Notice: The northern Deadwood Trailhead is currently under repair until further notice. Additionally, the spur trail east towards Custer City is closed. See here for more current updates.
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.
The trail is largely rural, with limited cell service, however; it does pass through several small towns and nearby state parks and campgrounds.
About the Route
The George S. Mickelson Trail's northern section (starting from Deadwood) 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, the trail crosses converted railroad bridges, some with trestles hundreds of feet high. Just south of Mystic, a once-thriving mining town, trail users encounter a 40-foot-long keyhole tunnel, which was formed by blasting through rock and lined with beams cut to fit the curving contours that give the tunnel its keyhole appearance.
The northernmost 16 miles (between Deadwood and Dumont), the trail is the steepest, with Dumont the highest point along the trail. The rest of the trail rarely exceeds a 4% grade.
From Hill City south through Custer, the trail travels through 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. Trail users will 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 6 miles east of the trail when it passes through Hill City. South of Custer, trail users can take a side trip east from the town of Pringle to reach Wind Caves National Park in 6 miles. Bison, elk and other wildlife roam the park’s rolling prairie grasslands, while a complex cave system sprawls beneath.
South of Pringle, the trail heads south, passing Argyle, towards Edgemont, a small town with retail and convenience options. The trail meets its southern endpoint here in Edgemont, which is considered Mile Marker 0.0 by South Dakota State Parks.
In Custer, trail users can take the Custer State Park Spur to the state park of the same name, which offers 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.
The George S. Mickelson Trail runs between Deadwood Trailhead, Charles St. (Deadwood) and 105 E St. (Edgemont), with parking at either end.
Additional parking can be found at:
There are numerous parking options along this route, See TrailLink Map for more parking options and detailed directions.