Stretching 109 miles from Deadwood in the north to Edgemont in the southwest, the Mickelson Trail has become known far and wide for the highquality bicycling it offers.
With a surface of primarily crushed limestone and gravel, the trail currently has 15 trailheads which all offer parking, self-sale trail pass stations, vault toilets and tables. Most of the grades are gradual and gentle, with none exceeding four percent. Portions of the trail are considered strenuous.
The trail is about 10 feet wide and traverses the full range of what nature in the Black Hills has to offer: prairie, mountains, aspen lined creeks, pine forests, high country meadows and the wildlife that lives in each of these diverse ecosystems.
Many of the old railroad trestles, about 100 of them, are still in place. All have been restored, as have four hard rock tunnels, blasted long ago through hillsides. Watch for the remains of old cabins and ghost mines. There are also 35 interpretive signs along the trail.
It isn’t only bicyclists that find the trail the perfect outdoor adventure. You can also hike, ride horseback or cross-country ski the trail. And although it feels like a wilderness trek, you’re never really very far from civilization.
A few rules to remember:
- Dogs must be leashed.
- Motorized vehicles are not allowed.
- Smoking is prohibited.
- Discharging a firearm from or across the trail is not allowed. The trail is closed from dusk to dawn.
- Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians.
- Horses have the ultimate right-of-way.
How is it that the area’s early railway entrepreneurs had the foresight to build their lines through some of the Black Hills’ most diverse and beautiful landscapes?
Of course, it is likely they were just trying to get from Point A to Point B by the easiest path possible, but when it’s Black Hills landscapes you are working with, almost any path will lead you through a wondrous world of nature ranging from flower-filled meadows to craggy granite cliffs.
Luckily, those hardy pioneers did most of the hard work in the late 1880s of establishing the transportation routes that eventually were transformed into the Rails to Trails byway that attracts thousands of visitors and outdoor enthusiasts to the Hills each year. Interest in a rails-to trails project started when the Burlington Northern Railroad abandoned its historic Black Hills high line in 1983. In September 1998, with government support and lots of volunteer work, the entire trail was completed and officially dedicated as the George S. Mickelson Trail, named in memory of the South Dakota governor who supported its beginnings.