Weekend Wheeling in Rapid City
The Mickelson Trail is one of the longest and most scenic of the many rail-trails in the United States. With about a dozen trailheads spread out between Deadwood and Edgemont, there are many possible out-and-back rides, some of which provide access to other Black Hills trails systems.
The trail surface varies between crushed stone of differing levels of coarseness and unimproved double-track, so it is not well suited in spots for narrow-tire road bikes.
One of my favorite sections of the Mickelson, which gets away from adjacent highways for a while, is the segment that runs north from the east end of the town of Custer. Here the grade climbs rather steeply on a switchback as it crosses a divide on the way to Hill City. Interesting rock cliffs and woodland meadows with prairie-dog towns are visible on the five-mile ascent to an open plateau from which views of the developing Crazy Horse Monument begin to unfold. This is the highest point on the southern section of the trail. Continue on if you wish, or return to Custer.
The Mickelson Trail south of Custer takes on a more benign, rural character with wider valleys and open ranches. North of Hill City, the trail traverses some of the most remote sections of the Black Hills as it gradually makes its way to Lead and Deadwood.
All services are available in Edgemont, Custer, Hill City, Lead, and Deadwood. A number of organizations in the area provide bike rentals and organized tours.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication