Touring - Mickelson trail South Dakota
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01-04-10, 10:42 AM
Mickelson trail South Dakota
A group of us all 50 plus, in Colorado are planning a may trip up to south dakota to do the Mickelson trail. I believe it is about 108 miles.
If any of you have ridden this trail I would appreciate your input as to hills, difficulty , etc.
we are a pretty diverse group, beginners to pretty good riders.
We are not doing it in one day , rather two or three days with hotels along the way.
Any way just anything you all could tell me about the trail would be great
01-04-10, 12:29 PM
I did it N to S in early June a couple years ago. The first day was a long climb out of Deadwood and was surprisingly more of a pain than anticipated. We followed some pretty good rains and had a soft trail with frequent mud holes to dodge and ride through. Even with 38c tires it was a grind. We were fully loaded and it took us the whole day to get to our first campsite.
Other than that it is great trail and I would highly recommend it if you have at least 32c tires. We did hit some very loose gravel near the south end where they were adding to the surface that made it tough too. Otherwise the surface is pretty solid. If you have to skip any of it I would say skip the southern most part since it is more open and dry. We stopped at Pringle. Deadwood to Custer was very beautiful.
Also keep in mind the weather is very unpredictable. We hunkered down in Custer for two nights in a motel because a cold front came through and we had temps around 40 with 30-40mph winds. The windchill without the proper clothing was nasty! Also some cold camping other nights even with a 20 degree bag.
We made our way back N to the car in Deadwood via roads rather than the trail which made for a nice change if you are planning a loop. However choose your roads based on the rider's expertise. We stayed off of roads like Needles Highway which can be very dangerous with narrow curves and lots of climbing.
BTW We were in the 50 plus group too. Good luck if you try the trip - I think you will enjoy it.
01-04-10, 01:29 PM
01-04-10, 01:50 PM
I did the section from Hill City to Deadwood in late May of 2008:
I had problems with cold rain, and almost got hypothermia. The problem is that the trail is an old railway line, and so the grades are very gradual - both up and down. That means the climb isn't all that arduous in terms of being steep, but it is long - and the downhill is very long too, which lets you cool down, not a good thing if it is cold and wet. The trail can also get quite soft when it's wet, you'd be well advised to have some wide tires on the bike. I had a Novara Safari with 26x2.0" Schwalbe Marathon XRs, and they coped fine, but I remember that for quite a bit of the day I was slogging along at about 3mph because of the softness of the surface. It would probably be just fine if the conditions are dry.
The trail is very beautiful, and feels quite remote as it winds up the valleys. You don't see much in the way of human habitation (apart from the occasional old mine digging), in fact I was getting a little worried about my situation when the freezing rain set in and I started feeling hypothermic. I tried to warm up inside one of the dank, dripping tunnel entrances, put on all my clothing and ate some food, but I had a real hard time warming up at all.
The weather can be very changeable - near the top of the biggest hill before Deadwood, the temps were dropping and it got very cloudy, and snow was apparent on the ground. My camera actually stopped working, I think because of the combination of dropping temps and dampness (it recovered later on in the motel). On the long descent to Deadwood, my hands and face went numb from the cold, wet air combined with lack of pedaling, and it started raining heavily once I hit Deadwood. That night the rain turned to snow, so be prepared for anything! This was late May, though, that time of year is very changeable in general (later on in the same trip, Yellowstone was closed due to a blizzard). See the next page after the one linked above for a pic the next morning from my motel in Deadwood:
All that being said, I wouldn't want to scare anybody away from this trail - I'd do it again in a heartbeat, just be aware of the potential issues with the weather, and be prepared for just about anything. I loved Deadwood, the Mt Moriah Cemetary is very interesting for anybody who is into the history of the place. Seth Bullock, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are all buried up there. It's a very steep hill, but well worth the climb (for me anyway). Pics of that here:
01-06-10, 09:47 AM
thanks for the info, just as I thought weather in may can be a iffy. sounds like we need to move the date up a couple of months. of course here in colorado we can get a foot of snow in July, but odds are better for a dry ride.
LHT in Madison
01-10-10, 06:48 AM
I did the trail with a friend last year, Aug 24-27, (2009) four days end to end and back. I e-mailed the park ahead of time and asked for their opinion on timing, we wanted to miss the crowds associated with the Sturgis motorcycle rally and miss the crowds around Labor Day. Our schedule was perfect in that regard.
Started at southern end which is actually on the prairie. Stayed at a forest service campground near the midpoint that is a short distance off of the trail both up and back, Oreville campground. N 43 deg 52.671 min W 103 deg 36.662 min.
At the northern end we stayed in Lead instead of Deadwood at a low cost motel called Palace Express. Not many places to eat in Lead, we used the the microwave near the front desk of the motel to warm up food that we had in our packs for supper.
I used a Long Haul Trucker with 700X37 tires, my friend used a mountain bike with 26X2.1 tires. His tires rolled better than mine. There was a few mm of loose sand over the hardpack and his tires rolled over that better than my tires which dug into the thin veneer of loose sand overlying the hard pack. But overall my tires were almost as good as his, but I would not use narrower tires.
Near Lead there were a few very short but very steep sections and I used my lowest gear (24t front, 32t rear) to get up those hills, but 99 percent of the trail has more reasonable grades.
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