Weekend Wheeling in Sioux Falls
In the seemingly endless flat expanse of the plains, a little creative searching is needed to find mountain biking terrain. South Dakota's state park system has a multiple-use trail policy in many of its units, and several trail biking options exist in the Sioux Falls vicinity parks.
Big Sioux Recreation Area
For a quick hour or two near town, try the Big Sioux Recreation Area, a mile south of Brandon on State Route 11. There are about four miles of trails here, straddling the river and connected by a suspension bridge. The east side loop starts out on an oak-forested bluff and descends into the cottonwood-dominated river bottoms. On the west side, the trail loop crosses an open prairie area and climbs a grassy ridge for great views of the river valley.
The trails are easy to moderate single-track, with some steep climbs and descents, water bars, and bridges to offer a bit of a challenge. Be sure to yield to other trail users. The recreation area has a picnic shelter, water, and a campground on the site. South Dakota parks require a daily $3 or seasonal pass for motor vehicle entry.
Newton Hills State Park
For more of a challenge, Newton Hills State Park, 25 miles south of Sioux Falls, has about six miles of multiple-use trails with over 250 feet of vertical relief in the bluffs overlooking the Big Sioux River. The multi-use trails are a combination of single-track and double-track, and some sections are "improved" with an added layer of fine crushed stone. Some steep descents, water bars, deep horse ruts, and muddy spots will add some technical challenges.
To get there, take I-29 south to exit 56, and then go 11 miles east on County Route 140. The best starting point is a multiple-use trailhead near a picnic shelter halfway around the one-way park road. Avoid the Woodland Trail, which you will encounter first, as it is designated for hikers only.
By starting out in a clockwise direction, you will gradually climb up a deeply forested ravine and then meander around on the bluff tops before reaching the first of several trail junctions. By keeping to the left, or to the outside of the trail system, you will maximize the distance and vertical challenge this area has to offer. The trail camp loop to the north of the equestrian staging area provides some great views of the Big Sioux River valley looking into Iowa. Do another lap or backtrack along one of the loops and you will have put in a good half day or so. Carry lots of water, yield to the occasional horseback riders, and take some time to listen to the sounds of the forest.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication