With nearly 6,000 miles of fire trails, logging roads, and abandoned railroad grades weaving through the Black Hills alone, it’s no surprise that mountain biking is quickly growing to be one of the most popular activities in South Dakota. There’s truly something for every level of biker here. Anyone can find their perfect trail, from complete newbies to experienced daredevils looking for jumps and technical single-track. If you happen to be traveling without your bike, don’t worry – you’ll find plenty of bike rental shops and guided mountain biking tours near popular trails. If you’re ready to ride but not sure where to go first, here are some of the best mountain biking trails our state has to offer.
1. Centennial Trail
You’ll find this 111-mile trail on any list of the best mountain biking destinations in the Black Hills area. Built in 1989 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of South Dakota’s statehood, it starts near Bear Butte State Park near Sturgis and ends in Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs. This trail has it all, from prairie grasslands to steep climbs into the Black Hills and high country – with more than 2,000 feet of elevation change along the way. Several trailheads make it easy to access the Centennial Trail, so it’s possible to ride just a small section and still get in a great workout.
2. George S. Mickelson Trail
The George S. Mickelson Trail clocks in at 109 miles, but is much easier than the Centennial. The first rail-to-trail project in the state features a crushed gravel and limestone path along the old Deadwood to Edgemont Burlington Northern railway line. You’ll cross converted railroad bridges and travel through hard rock tunnels along the way. The steepest sections are from Dumont to Deadwood, but most of the trail has less than a four percent grade. Plus, 15 trailheads make it easy to jump on for short day-rides.
3. Storm Mountain Trail
Just a 30-minute drive from Mount Rushmore, Storm Mountain Trail is considered one of the best trails in the Black Hills National Forest by both hikers and mountain bikers. The challenging, 11.6-mile out-and-back single-track trail winds up tight switchbacks through the pine forest, then cruises back down the same path. Located southwest of Rapid City, the trail is well marked and maintained by a local organization, and there are a couple scenic overlooks along the way.
4. Alkali Creek Trail
The Alkali Creek Trail network east of Sturgis features 19.5 miles of trails with varying difficulty. Many rides recommend going from Alkali toward Fort Meade Recreation Area for an easier downhill ride. The whole network is comprised of smaller trails, ranging from quarter-mile connectors to 4-mile stretches. Local favorites include the Grind, an aptly named 1.26-mile trek up a steep and rutted trail, and Bulldog. Bulldog is 3.78 miles of fast, technical single-track. Riders usually take it as an out-and-back from the Alkali Creek Trailhead.
5. The Bone Collector
Despite its intimidating name, the Bone Collector is a manageable trail for mountain bikers at any level, with opportunities for novice riders to practice more technical skills. Located just southwest of Rapid City, it’s a short ride, at 1.7 miles, but has drops, logs, and steep, rocky sections. Smaller features and ride-arounds make it accessible for less-experienced riders as well.
6. Victoria Lake Lollipop
A local favorite, this 9.3-mile ride near Rapid City makes for a great workout by itself, or a popular add-on to the 15-mile Victoria Lake Loop 15. Considered best for intermediate to advanced mountain bikers, the Lollipop gets right to it with a steep climb up through a pine forest. There are some technical sections along the way, but your hard work is rewarded when you finally descend the “Big Climb” on the way back. About 4-miles in, you have an option to take the Extra Credit Connector, which meets up with the larger Victoria Lake Loop, or to continue around to go back the way you came.
7. LaFramboise Island Nature Area
A beginner and family-friendly 10-mile trail, winding across LaFramboise Island in the Missouri River near Pierre. Flat, single and double-track trails range from packed soil to loose sand, all surrounded by tall cottonwood trees and meadows. Keep an eye out for birds – bald eagles frequent the area – as well as deer and wild turkey.