This is a small portion of the Mickleson Trail that starts in Deadwood, South Dakota.
The entire trail is 109 miles in total, running from Deadwood to Edgemont, South Dakota.
The George S. Mickelson Trail's northern section is beautiful! It cuts a curving course through mountains and ponderosa pine forests, over creeks and through narrow valleys by the towns of Deadwood, Lead and Dumont.
A majority of the Rail-Trail does not exceed a 4% grade so climbing seems gradual and very easy going. (Dumont is the highest point and the 19 mile stretch from Deadwood to Dumont is the longest incline of the entire trail.)
The crushed-stone surface is incredibly consistent, and no motorized vehicles are allowed so riding is generally pretty smooth and fast (especially on the downhill sections).
As you can see from the map, we took a small alternate trail different than the section we took on the way out and it was particularly delightful. It had multiple bridges, and the trail is notched into the mountains—pressed up against granite walls to one side and dropping off steeply on the other. In other places there are impressive slabs of slate stacked haphazardly like tall, thin books on a bookshelf.
We were bummed not to be able to do the whole trail length on this trip. We were looking for a mild "rest day" ride and this fit the bill perfectly, however, doing the whole trail in the future is something we look forward to (and would make for a perfect beginner bikepacking endeavor).
Although the trail itself is not for motorized vehicles, there are several road crossings. The trail feels remote and you easily get into a quiet rhythm, so you have to make a conscious effort to slow down, stop and pay attention when you get to the road crossings where vehicles are moving along with speed.
Do this ride if you near Deadwood South Dakota and are looking for a relatively easy and smooth crushed-stone rail-to-trail ride that is absolutely beautiful as it winds though the Black Hills National Forest.
Named in honor of the former South Dakota governor who crusaded for the trail before his death in 1993, the George S. Mickelson Trail runs for 109 miles 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 of Spruce and Ponderosa Pine; however, some segments pass through private lands (and users are asked to respect landowner rights and trail use is restricted to the trail only).
We parked easily in the public parking lot where the trail begins.
A trail pass is required. It is $4 per person per day or $15 per person annually. We were able to pay at the pay station by putting cash in an envelope. Passes can be purchased at a host of placed (listed here) or online (annual passes only), but it takes 14 days to ship.
Bathrooms are available at the beginning of the trailhead in Deadwood, and at approximately mile 10 on the way out (and because it’s an out and back, again at mile 30). The rest stop also had drinking water if you need to refill water bottles.
Although we didn't notice, the trail website warns of poor to non-existent cell phone coverage on the trail.
On our return trip, we rode alongside a local rider named Tally Chapman who told us all about the trail history. Turns out he owns and operates a place called Happy Trails Cabins in nearby Silver City, SD. So if you are looking for accommodations and great riding in the area, contact him and his wife!
If you are looking for a pre or post-ride meal and/or coffee we recommend the Pump House Coffee and Deli in Deadwood which was just a few block away from where we parked.