George S. Mickelson Trail: A Perfect Weekend Getaway in South Dakota

Mickelson trail

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George S. Mickelson Trail was initially built as a rail line to transport miners and gold in the area. The railway ran from Deadwood to Edgemont, via the scenic Black Hills.

However, in the early 1980s, the rail was abandoned and a bike trail was built and completed in 1998. The trail is approximately 109 miles and has 4 rock tunnels and over 100 converted rail bridges.

This trail has been used by a number of luminaries in the state including General George Custer, Potato Creek Jonny, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok.


Type of Bike Gear Needed for a Mickelson Trail 


The surface of the Mickelson Trail is packed with gravel, so a mountain or cross bike is recommended. The bike trail is well-maintained, however, there are some spots with loose gravel. You are advised to train on how to control your downhill speed as your tires could easily lose their traction.

The Mickelson Trail has 14 trailheads that offer clean sanitary facilities and ample parking.

Because the bike trail is at an elevation, the weather can vary from time to time. The highest point is at Dumont – at 6300 feet, and the lowest point is at Edgemont – at 3400 feet. Early mornings are chilly, while the afternoons are nicely warm (the perfect weather for a bike ride).


What to Do Along the George S. Mickelson Trail


Here is how you can spend your day trip along this celebrated bike trail:


Find Peace and Tranquility at the Black Hills

Your biking adventure will start at the Black Hills. This is best time to settle into your accommodation and get a glimpse of the huge land masses around you. Use this opportunity to take in the clean and fresh air that you’ll never find in a typical city.

You can also try new dishes at one of the many restaurants available, shop for souvenirs, or visit the museum.

If you are exploring the Mickelson Trail on foot or bike, you can start adventure anywhere along the route. You can also ride a horse for the trail.

Regardless of your mode of transport, ensure you take in the picturesque sights of landscapes and wildlife you’ll come across.


Biking the Mickelson Trail

If you didn’t bring your bikes for the trail, you can get rentals at the Rabbit Bicycles in Hill City (also offers bike repairs, trail clothing, and biking gear) and at the Deadwheels in Deadwood. You can also get shuttles services at both places.

Biking along the trail is one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery and you get to go at your own pace. Mickelson Trail maps are available at different pit stops along the way.

For the perfect terrain, you should consider using the trail on Rochford, SD which is 8 miles south the Mystic Trailhead. Don’t forget to pack your lunch – you can make a detour at one of the picnic tables along the way.

The Hill City, also known as the “Heart of the Hills,” is a great spot to end your tiresome day. This little charming town is full of stunning restaurants, breweries, wineries, art galleries, and state-of-the-art boutique shops.

Some great suggestions for a quick and scrumptious dish include Desperados, Slate Creek Grill, Bistro at Prairie Berry Winery, and the Alpine Inn.


Horseback Riding on the Mickelson Trail

If you are thinking of riding a horse along the trail, ensure you lock and park your car before riding off.

Horseback riding is common along the Black Hills National Forest part of the trail. This is the perfect way to experience the variety of trail terrain. At the national park, horses have a right of way. This means that bikers and hikers should move aside for them.

Don’t forget to visit the great Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. It is just off from the Centennial Trail which runs parallel to the Mickelson Trail. There’s a place to keep your horses as you explore the National Memorial.

You can book a horse ride along the trail at one of the following places:

  • Andy’s Trail Rides
  • Palmer Gulch Stables
  • Ghost Canyon Ranch
  • Hill Country Guest Ranch
  • Rocking R Trail Rides


Mickelson Trail During the Winter

Mickelson Trail is an all-year trail. During the winter, you can start your adventure at the Northern Hills at Lead Town – a small mountain town that has a breathtaking view of the Black Hills (now turned white).

Riding snowmobiles is allowed between the Deadwood and the Dumont section of the trail. If you didn’t carry your snowmobile, there are several places where you can rent one. If you want a quieter way of enjoying the picturesque beauty of the hills, you can use a fat-tire bike (rentals also available) or put on a pair of snow skis.

And when you are done with the thrilling snow rides, you can retire to one of the warm and cozy hotels in Leads. The Blackstone Lodge is a newly-renovated hotel that offers convenient accommodation and outdoor hot tubs. It’s a good place to warm up after a day on the freezing trails.

You can relax at the Hanger Bar and enjoy a glass of perfectly matured wine and brewed beer. In addition, you can book accommodation and get a complimentary breakfast.


Add the Mickelson Trail to Your Bucket List


If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of your city, the Mickelson Trail is the go-to place. Whether you decide to explore the trail on foot, bike, horseback, or snowmobile, you can be sure you won’t regret a second of the memories you make and discoveries you find.

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