A Guide to the Ultimate Mickelson Trail Adventure | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

A Guide to the Ultimate Mickelson Trail Adventure

  • A Guide to the Ultimate Mickelson Trail Adventure
3 Days

Named for the former governor who endorsed its construction, the George S. Mickelson Trail runs through the heart of the Black Hills. It connects Deadwood in the Northern Hills all the way to Edgemont in the Southern Hills.

The 109-mile pathway made of crushed limestone follows a historic rail line, incorporating over 100 converted railroad bridges and four rock tunnels. The trail passes through national forest and privately-owned land. Rich with gold mining history, this historical trail is one of the premier rail trails in the west.

The trail’s gentle slopes beckon runners, bikers, hikers and horseback riders of all abilities.

Please note that cell phone service is limited in many areas of the trail.

Know Before You Go 

TRAIL PASSES: Required for all trail users 12+
COST: Day Pass, $4; Annual Pass, $15
All pets must be leashed


You can start your adventure anywhere along the route, at any trailhead, especially if you're exploring by foot or bike. If you're riding a horse you may want to make sure there is plenty of trailer parking or have someone take your truck and trailer to where you will be leaving the trail. Regardless of how you travel the trail, you're sure to discover many beautiful sights and most likely numerous birds and animals along the way.

Planning your adventure on your own can be a daunting task. Make use of a tour company or vacation guide like Black Hills Adventure Tours & Vacation Planning. If you're in need of a rental, check out Black Hills Power Bikes, Rentals & Botique located in the Southern Hills in Custer, or Rabbit Bicycle Rentals & Repair in Hill City - both just blocks from the Mickelson Trail and both offer bike rentals for adults as well as children. 


Bring your own bikes and gear and hit the trail. Didn't bring a bike? Rentals are available from Deadwheels at the Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort in Deadwood or from Rabbit Bicycles in Hill City who also offers bicycle repairs, biking gear, merchandise, and Mickelson Trail clothing. Both businesses offer a shuttle service too.

Now, explore the Black Hills on your own time. Enjoy the scenery, go at your own pace and take everything in as you pedal your way along. Pack a lunch - there are picnic tables along the trail!

Explore on Horseback

Should you bring your own horse, make sure to park and lock your vehicles before you ride off.  The Mickelson Trail is an easy, but beautiful ride through the middle of the Black Hills. It's a perfect way to see a variety of terrain, and a lot of the Black Hills National Forest. Be aware that horses have the right of way with hikers and bikers moving aside for them; however, you should still be cautious as a rider when nearing people on foot or on a bike.

Mickelson trail riders can even make their way right to Mount Rushmore National Memorial with the newly improved Historic Blackberry Trail. It's an off-shoot from the Centennial Trail which often runs parallel to the Mickelson Trail. No, you can't ride directly up to the memorial, but there is a place to tie horses. Once your rides are tied, you can then walk across the road to the National Memorial and enter for free.

Don't have your own horse? Book a trail ride at any of these great places. Many will take you on the Mickelson Trail for varying distances.

  • Rockin R Trail Rides
  • High Country Guest Ranch
  • Palmer Gulch Stables
  • Andy's Trail Rides


Explore in a Winter Wonderland

If you want to experience the trail during the winter, the best place to start is up in the Northern Hills. The quaint mountain town of Lead is a wondrous place when the snow falls and the Black Hills are mystically turned to white. Plan to bring your snowmobile and cruise through the Hills. Snowmobiling is allowed only - on the Deadwood to Dumont section of the Mickelson Trail. Signs clearly mark where and what time of year. Many places offer snowmobile rentals too.  If you like a more "quiet" way to discover the scenic beauty, put on a pair of cross-country skis or take your fat-tire bike! The trail is groomed on the snowmobile section, but if you're snow skiing or biking you can go further and blaze your own trail!

Special Events

Take part in the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, Half Marathon and Relay, for 26.2 miles of Black Hills beauty.

The Mickelson Trail Summer Trail Trek is a three-day bicycle ride, and allows E-bikes.

Riders of all skill levels are encouraged to participate in the incredible 3-day Mickelson Trail Trek in the fall season.

Trolley on the Trail

People with physical limitations can experience the Mickelson Trail on a trolley ride. Trolley on the Trail departs from various locations on specific dates throughout the summer months, and reservations are required. Each person reserving a space is required to have a handicapped parking permit. One assistant can accompany this person if needed.

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