The Black Hills National Forest comprises a vast area of 1.2 million South Dakotan acres, affording nature enthusiasts a virtually limitless outdoor playground. The rugged terrain, challenging inclines, old logging trails, and quick switch-backs make it a haven for the adventure-seeking mountain biker. Skill levels vary from easy to highly challenging. Almost the entire forest is open to bikers, with the exception of some protected nature areas, such as the Harney Range Trails and Black Elk Wilderness. Bike rentals are available throughout the forest.
Below are some of the most popular mountain biking venues within the Black Hills National Forest:
- Big Hill Trails: This network of trails provides 15 miles of heavily wooded biking opportunities just a few miles south of Spearfish. Bikers enjoy a quiet, nature-grounded setting through lush aspen forests, sweeping prairies, and deep canyons. Trails vary from easy, regularly maintained routes to challenging, off-road adventures.
- Centennial Trail: This highly popular 111-mile route was created in 1989 in recognition of South Dakota’s centennial. Originating at the plains of Bear Butte State Park, it runs through densely forested hills all the way to Wind Cave National Park. With more than 20 trailheads and many connections to other trails, the Centennial provides virtually limitless wilderness biking opportunities. A wide variety of terrain conditions, surface types, and skill levels can be found.
- Eagle Cliff Trails: Mountain bikers have their pick of 20 interconnected trails, originally designed as ski trails and now maintained for multi-purpose use. You’ll find an abundance of trail surfaces and landscapes, from open meadows to pine and aspen forests.
- ·George S. Mickelson Trail: This nationally renowned trail meanders for 110 miles through most of the Black Hills, originating in the town of Deadwood and running south to Edgemont. Bikers will explore six mountain communities, traverse lush pine forests, and stop to partake of stunning cliff-side views. This family-friendly, multi-purpose trail has a crushed limestone surface.
- Old Baldy Trail: Looping around a forested ridge in the Black Hills National Forest, this six-mile trail affords stunning views of sweeping pastures and mountain communities. Enterprising bikers can follow the spur trail to the top of Old Baldy Mountain for a stunning view of the Black Hills. Vibrant colors and abundant wildlife make this moderately challenging loop a magnet for nature lovers.
- Deerfield Lake Loop: This loop trail provides bikers with 10 miles of moderately challenging biking through the center of the Black Hills National Forest, 14 miles northwest of Hill City. And if you venture off on the connecting 18-mile Deerfield Trail and 111-mile Centennial Trail, you’ll find enough terrain to fuel days of biking adventures. Set against a picturesque backdrop of pine and aspen forests and rolling grasslands, the Deerfield Lake Loop is as pleasant to look at as it is fun to ride.
- Custer Area Tour: Near the town of Custer, this out-and-back loop provides 24 miles of easy to moderate biking trails, with several decent hills. You’ll ride to the tune of thick ponderosa forests and will pass through the town of Custer and an old-fashioned mining area. Trail widths and surfaces vary.
For more information on mountain biking opportunities in the Black Hills National Forest, call 1-605-673-2251 or visit www.fs.fed.us/bhnf.