Bicycling on the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota

Crushed limestone of the Mickelson.

Riding the crushed limestone gravel of the Mickelson Trail.

Wow, the last ten days have flown by! Go go go… We’re already practically across Iowa, even with a pause for a couple days to hang out with a high school friend in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve had zero time to write for a variety of reasons, but before South Dakota is too far behind us, here are some photos from our time touring in the Black Hills.

After weeks of cycling, primarily with cars whizzing by, getting off pavement and away from vehicles (including the Sturgis Rally contingent) is as refreshing as a dip into a cold creek on a summer’s day. The Black Hills themselves, an eruption of peaks and tree-lined valleys in midst of the rolling northern plains, are beautiful and remind me of the forested regions of the Pacific Northwest. (I barely remember what a pine tree looks like these days. A corn stalk with spiky needles?)

The trail cuts through a number of cool old tunnels from the railroad days.

The trail cuts through a number of cool old tunnels from the railroad days.

Enter the George S. Mickelson Trail, 109 miles of packed limestone gravel through the heart of the Hills. It’s an old railroad bed from mining days that South Dakota turned into one of the nicest rails-to-trails I’ve seen. If you ever vist Rushmore, definitely get out on a bike (Rabbit Bicycles in Hill City rents them) and check out the trail! I won’t belabor details – these guys have the info.

Warning: If you start from Spearfish and ride up the canyon, it is a THIRTY mile climb to start out, with more elevation than climbing over Glacier. That said, it was beautiful and totally worth it. (We sure aren’t taking the flat and easy way across this country though.) Our route traced from north to south, with camping on Forest Service land one night and snagging a cozy cabin another. Can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re in the area! I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking…and here’s a video from the trail.

Tunnels of trees along the trail.

Tunnels of trees along the trail.

And with that, I bid you adieu. In one more day, we’ll cross out of Iowa into Illinois! Ticking off the miles and heading further east through the Midwest. The weather is hot and humid and life is good.

Onward!

Dakota

Chelsea watches a big herd of cows and their new offspring.

Chelsea watches a big herd of cows and their new offspring.

In some places, the trail is hewn through solid rock like this.

In some places, the trail is hewn through solid rock like this.

Lots of old bridges along the way!

Lots of old bridges along the way!

Chelsea cruises a calm section of road while I rampage on the Mickelson Trail.

Chelsea cruises a calm section of road while I rampage on the Mickelson Trail.

Chelsea approaches a gate on the trail.

Chelsea approaches a gate on the trail.

Cold water and a nice rest stop in Spearfish Canyon.

Cold water and a nice rest stop in Spearfish Canyon.

Coming out of the southern end of the trail as it flattens out and opens into plains.

Coming out of the southern end of the trail as it flattens out and opens into plains.

NOT on the trail... A side trip to the Crazy Horse monument, where they let you keep rocks from the project. I took six to weigh down my bike. Training weight!

Not on the trail… A side trip to the Crazy Horse monument, where they let you keep rocks from the project. I took six to weigh down my bike. Training weight!

One more of Mt. Rushmore. My friend Loren happened to be coming through the Black Hills while driving from San Francisco to Boston. So C and I jumped on board for a tour of the Rushmore area in a *gasp* CAR. Given all the motorcycles out that day, it was the right call! And super fun to hang with a friend along our trip.

Not on the trail… One more of Mt. Rushmore. My friend Loren happened to be coming through the Black Hills while driving from San Francisco to Boston. So C and I jumped on board for a tour of the Rushmore area in a *gasp* CAR. Given all the motorcycles out that day, it was the right call! And super fun to hang with a friend along our trip. Photo credit to awesome Kathy.

2 replies
  1. Laura Lynn
    Laura Lynn says:

    More wonderful photos! I enjoy your storytelling just as much as the photos capturing those great moments on your trail. Thanks for sharing more of your journey 🙂

    Reply
    • Dakota Gale
      Dakota Gale says:

      Hi Laura! Glad you enjoyed it. I’m just trying to keep the wheels on (literally) through a tough, hot section of our trip, so I haven’t been writing as much. Soon, we hit the Great Lakes!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge