From the looks of the posts on my my social media a lot of people took advantage of the holiday weekend to get out and ride. Where did you go? I went with a group of new friends to check out the Mickelson Trail through the Black Hills of South Dakota. Now I don’t know how we’d missed it for so long.
The idea for the Mickelson trail was hatched when the former rail line was being salvaged and dismantled in 1986, the same year the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy was born, and it was finished in 1998.
It runs from Edgemont to Deadwood and includes 14 trailheads. Using a railbed, I don’t think the grades get beyond about 4%, so while six miles of gradual incline might get a little old, it’s never that bad, and then you get the downhill grade. We saw families with smallish children riding up the incline. My favorite part was was probably from the tunnels around Mystic to Rochford, a tiny town with a lot of attitude. We didn’t ride much south of Custer this time, not beyond Pringle, but the scenery varies the further you go as the valley opens up, from mountains to prairies.
It’s a popular trail and there were many riders without feeling crowded, where we rode. We had our home base at a Custer campground and rode north the first day, to Rochford, then doubled back, approx. 80 miles.
It would have been nice to ride the entire 114 mile trail, but to do that you either need a shuttle service or to bike pack it, neither of which our group did. It’s also nice to spend time exploring the small towns and side roads or trails along the way, so it would be a pity to rush it. There is a lot of mining history and the Crazy Horse monument in the section we rode, besides beautiful scenery.
The second day we did a shorter ride looping with gravel roads, taking advantage of the trail to finish the loop. A late start and long, social lunch in Pringle made for fewer miles. Some of our group was a little tired from the previous day’s mileage, something to take into account on a group ride.
Provisions are not available at the trailheads, but water is. Make sure you pack enough food with you in case you don’t ride through a population center.
I was a little concerned we were going to have trouble with heavy ATV traffic on the gravel as Rochford was full of the machines, but we did not see them further south.
Already we are talking about plans to see more of the trail next year.