Weekend Wheeling in Rapid City
The 110-mile Centennial Trail bisects the eastern Black Hills and provides access to other trail systems and remote double-tracks. At least half a dozen different agencies have jurisdiction over the rambling trail route, and mountain biking is not allowed on a few sections, so check the latest regulations in each area. Since the trail was primarily designed for hiking and backpacking, much of it is single-track with many steep climbs and descents, and tight corners that require caution and skill when negotiated with a bike. For most riders, the trail is best broken down into manageable segments and explored a bit at a time.
Access to the trail can be gained at many different road crossings and trailheads. Bear Butte State Park, Dalton Trailhead, Pactola Reservoir, Sheridan Lake, and Custer State Park are the most popular starting points.
My favorite part of the Centennial Trail is a section that joins the Iron Mountain trail system in the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, just to the north of Custer State Park. Situated above 5,000 feet in elevation in a rugged, granite spire-studded pine forest only a few miles south of Mount Rushmore, there are about ten miles of single- and double-track trails in addition to the Centennial, allowing for a number of fun loops.
Access to the area can be made from two points along US Highway 16A: just south of the famous Pigtail Bridge, and from Iron Creek campground just off the Needles Highway State Highway 87.
The nearby Black Elk Wilderness is off-limits to biking, so watch for and respect the signs. As with anywhere in the Black Hills, be sure to carry plenty of water, good maps, and a compass.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication