Black Hills of South Dakota Family Trip
The Black Hills of South Dakota rise above the plains and create a cool summer environment, perfect for riding the twisty turny terrain found here.
Black Hills National Forest includes lots of fun singletrack trails and dirt roads rolling through spruce groves and grassy meadows. Goldenrod and Echineacea grow wild everywhere, along with all kinds of sunflowers.
The itinerary includes great sections of the Centennial Trail and the Deerfield Trail just outside of Silver City, South Dakota. Every camp is on a beautiful lake, making this singletrack and camping heaven. And to top it off, on day three we take a party barge out on the lake for swimming.
The Black Hills tour is a great trip with fun singletrack and lots of swimming opportunities.
After meeting in Rapid City, we will begin our trip with a shuttle to Rochford, South Dakota in the heart of the Black Hills. The Black Hills has a rich mining history and our first evidence of that is the name of the drainage near the start of our ride: Poverty Gulch! But wealth was to be found, and removed via railroad. Many sections of the original rail system have been converted to trail. We’ll start our ride today on the George Mickelson Rail Trail near the Rochford fire station. The pedaling is easy and allows us to take in the magnitude of the sheer granite valley walls. We’ll have lunch in the town of Mystic where we can tour the abandoned buildings of the gold mining era. We’ll pick up the Deerfield Trail for a little more technical riding in the afternoon. The doubletrack starts with a good climb winding up the Crooked Creek drainage. Short sections of singletrack along the way deliver us to Deerfield Lake where there will be options to dip in the lake or hike along the shore after setting up camp.
TOTAL MILEAGE: 20 miles, shorter options available
Today we head back east through the Deerfield drainage. The trail will seem familiar, and you will be able to take in the views that you missed on the way out. In the afternoon our ride takes us through a dense ponderosa forest on a combination of old doubletrack and technical singletrack. Much of the trail is swooping and smooth, with intermittent pitches of steep rocky sections. The Black Hills were created by an uplift of metamorphic and igneous rock. Initially, these underlying rocks were covered by marine sediments, primarily limestone, some 65 million years ago. Since then, erosion has taken away the central part of the limestone forming an elliptical donut. This donut has granite, slate and schist of igneous origin in the center and marine limestone all around it. Evidence of this history is exposed in the sheer schist walls surrounding Slate Creek, where we’ll camp for the night. Before dinner, you may opt for a quick splash in Slate Creek or a hike up through the metamorphic rock formation to visit the old mines. TOTAL MILEAGE: 14 miles, longer options available
We’ll begin our ride this morning by climbing Skull Gulch on a beautiful dirt road, working our way up to the Tiffel Mine, an abandoned gold mine. Many of these trails and roads were created by energetic gold miners in the 1870s. We’ll climb and roll through the ponderosa forest and eventually join a rolling fire road down Nugget Gulch to arrive in historic Silver City. Our ride continues to Pactola Reservoir where we will be met by a party barge for a cruise across the lake to our camp on the reservoir. TOTAL MILEAGE: 12 miles, optional 8 miles singletrack
This morning we will pick up the Centennial Trail at the base of the Pactola Dam and head south. Starting with a climb on doubletrack and singletrack, we will reach an overlook of the lake and the riding to come. There will be fun downhill singletrack before lunch. In the afternoon we will ride through a beautiful grassland and get views of Harney Peak, the highest mountain in the Black Hills. Once at camp there are options to swim, take a hike or do a little more pedaling. TOTAL MILEAGE: 16 miles
From camp this morning, we’ll ride up to the dam and pick up a sweet singletrack along the south shore of Sheridan Lake. The Flume Trail is fun and rolling and reminiscent of the trailbed created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. We’ll meet the van at the far side of the lake and load up for a quick shuttle to Crazy Horse Monument. Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was invited by the Lakota Indians to carve Crazy Horse into the Black Hills in 1939. After voluntary service in World War II, the sculptor decided to accept the Indians’ invitation and turned down a government commission to create war memorials in Europe. The dedication of the memorial was in 1998 and the work is still ongoing. We’ll spend some time here, have lunch and shuttle up the road where we will view Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. After photos we will continue on to Rapid City. TOTAL MILEAGE: 5 miles
Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety, and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventure.
Riding Surface: Singletrack trails, doubletrack trails and some pavement. Packed dirt and loose gravel.
Overall Rating: Intermediate
Technical Difficulty: Moderate
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Altitude: 4,000 - 6,500 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.