“Majestic,” “striking,” and “otherworldly” are just some of the words used to describe the Black Hills of South Dakota, and you’ll see it all from your saddle as you cycle along lightly traveled roads and portions of the unforgettable Mickelson Trail, a 114-mile-long, gravel-surfaced rail trail.
Beginning and ending our adventure in Rapid City, we’ll visit the historic towns of Lead, Hot Springs, and Keystone, gateway to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, as well as Custer State Park. We’ll also see Crazy Horse Memorial, which, when finished, will dwarf Mount Rushmore, and Wind Cave National Park, one of the largest and most complex caves in the world. From breathtaking scenic vistas to rock-solid national memorials and state parks, you’ll get to experience it all on this fantastic loop ride.
"I really enjoyed the small group dynamic. Everyone was so friendly, helpful and supportive. The Mickelson Trail was definitely the highlight of the cycling route."
Day 1. Rapid City, South Dakota, 0 miles
You’ll meet up with your tour leader and the rest of the group just outside Rapid City. Here you and your fellow adventure cyclists will have an orientation session and map meeting, followed by a hearty dinner. Together we will make any final adjustments to your bicycle, and then it’s time to get some shut-eye in preparation for the day ahead.
Day 2. Rapid City to Deadwood, 46 miles
Not long after leaving Rapid City, we’ll merge onto the relatively quiet Nemo Road, following it for most of the day. Our lunch stop will be in the once-thriving Homestake Mine company town of Nemo. No one is certain how the town got its name, but there are at least three theories: it was either named after Captain Nemo of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, after “omen” spelled backwards, or after an Indian word meaning “nowhere.” At day’s end, we’ll check into our cozy resort in Deadwood, a lively casino-gaming town that is anything but dead.
Day 3. Deadwood to Hill City, 51 miles
Before leaving Deadwood, you’ll want to swing in and have a look at the No. 10 Saloon, in which Wild Bill Hickok met his maker after being shot while playing poker. Leaving town, we’ll pedal onto the splendid, traffic-free Mickelson Trail, a rail trail that we’ll follow for the next 80-plus miles. Before reaching the day’s destination of Hill City, we’ll swing into another locally famous watering hole, the Moonshine Gulch Saloon in tiny Rochford, for a beer or sarsaparilla.
Day 4. Hill City to Hot Springs, 51 miles
Before riding into Custer in the morning, we’ll pedal on the Mickelson Trail past the famed Crazy Horse Memorial, a sculpture that, when finished, will dwarf even Mount Rushmore. Begun in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor’s family has been continuing his work since he passed away in 1982. We’ll continue riding to Hot Springs.
Day 5. Hot Springs to Custer, 40 miles
After breakfast, we’ll pedal through Wind Cave National Park, which protects one of the largest and most complex caves in the world with 94 miles of known passageways snaking through Paha Sapa Limestone. Above ground in the fresh Dakota air, the park supports 28,000 acres of ponderosa pine forests and one of the best and largest examples of native mixed-grass prairie remaining. We’ll overnight near gigantic Custer State Park, home to bison herds and other wildlife.
Day 6. Custer to Hill City, 30 miles
Returning to Hill City via a different set of roads, we’ll have an opportunity to visit the world-famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial as well as enjoy a host of other activities and attractions, such as the Black Hills Central Railroad. This historic steam locomotive, which once hauled gold out of the Black Hills, now carries tourists.
Day 7. Hill City to Rapid City, 27 miles
All too soon, we’re back in Rapid City, which we’ll re-enter by way of the scenic Sheridan Lake Road. After this weeklong sampler of the bucolic Black Hills, however, we think you’ll come back for another taste. In fact, we’d bet on it in Deadwood.