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Biking in South Dakota

ThingsToDo-Bicycling.jpgSouth Dakota is an undiscovered gem when it comes to biking.

But organizations like the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) are taking notice. In 2000, IMBA gave South Dakota one of only two "A" grades for its trails. Whatever kind of ride you’re looking for, we’ve got it: strenuous mountain climbs, leisurely rides on old railroad beds, fun fat-tire outings and serious road rides.

George S. Mickelson Trail

The premier trail within South Dakota’s state park system, this 109-mile jewel stretches the length of the Black Hills. It follows an abandoned railroad bed, and climbs gently into jagged cliffs and pine forests. The Mickelson Trail has a crushed limestone surface and wide path. It tops out at 6,100 feet but rarely exceeds a 4-percent grade (making it perfect for leisure riders). Trestle bridges and railroad tunnels add to the trail’s charm. You can start your adventure at any of 14 trailheads. There is a small user fee.

For a brochure, call (605) 773-3391 or visit www.mickelsontrail.com.

State Park Trails

South Dakota’s state parks are loaded with trails. Generally, fat-tire riders share track with hikers. Biking terrain ranges from open prairie to gravel river-bottom trails. Nine state parks and recreation areas also have designated horse trails that are great for fat-tire riding. The dirt trails at Sica Hollow cover 15 miles of steep, wooded ravine and flat prairie. Newton Hills, another popular fat-tire ride, offers six miles of trail through dense forest and grassland.

For information, call (605) 773-3391; take a look at Game, Fish and Parks' State Park Bicycle Tours brochure (PDF); or visit Game, Fish and Parks' website.

Black Hills National Forest Trails

Hard-core mountain bikers love riding "The Hills." Nearly all of the 1.2-million-acre forest is open to bikers, except Black Elk Wilderness Area. Hiking trails often prove challenging courses. Take Crow Peak, near Spearfish. This hard-and-fast ascent covers 1,600 feet (via a series of switchbacks) in just 3.5 miles. The multipurpose Centennial Trail extends 111 miles with terrain ranging from dirt and grass to rocks and water. You’ll encounter daunting climbs and sometimes daring descents on this rugged outing.

For information, call Black Hills National Forest at (605) 673-2251 or visit www.fs.fed.us/bhnf.

Sioux Falls Greenway

A paved 14-mile route, the Greenway Trail makes a sweeping loop around Sioux Falls. Portions of the trail follow the Big Sioux River. At Falls Park, you can view the city’s namesake, the falls of the Big Sioux River, as they tumble over quartzite cliffs. The Greenway preserves a stretch of nature within the bustling metro area.

Yankton Biking Trail

This is a leisurely, beautiful ride along the Missouri River. The paved trail covers approximately 10 miles between the city of Yankton and nearby Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. Starting at Riverside Park in Yankton, you’ll ride along Missouri River shoreline, wind through residential areas and across open fields, and end up back at the river. An alternate start – West Side Park in Yankton – skips much of the residential area.

Spearfish Canyon

Sheer limestone cliffs flank this 19-mile trek on U.S. Highway 14A through Spearfish Canyon. The route, which has been designated a National Forest Scenic Byway, winds its way through stunning mountain scenery. Bikers ride on paved highway and should be extremely cautious of traffic.