Family Bikepacking | George S Mickelson Trail in South Dakota

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Driving to Iowa over Easter weekend, I pulled out my laptop and started researching things to do in South Dakota. We planned to go over Memorial Day weekend and if it was anything like the last time we were there, we knew the chances for rain were pretty high, so our plans had to be flexible. After a quick search, I came across the George S. Mickelson Trail. Kurt and I quickly decided, this would be our first family bikepacking adventure, rain or shine.

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George S Mickelson Trail - tunnels

One of 4 hard-rock tunnels along the George S Mickelson trail.

George S Mickelson Trail - Bison

The trail runs from Deadwood, South Dakota to Edgemont, South Dakota, 109 miles away. You need to buy a trail pass, with is a nominal $4/day per person. Along the way you’ll encounter beautiful scenery, more than 100 converted railroad bridges, and four hard-rock tunnels. If you’re lucky, you’ll see baby bison rambunctiously playing with their elders, deer, and even encounter a cow or two. If you’re unlucky (or lucky depending on your perspective), mountain lions have been spotted in the area.

George S Mickelson Trail - WeeHoo Trailer

We decided to ride from Deadwood to Edgemont, for two reasons. One, my husband would be pulling our daughter in her Weehoo trailer, and even though the first 19 miles were uphill, from that point on it was a nice balance of ups and downs. Two, once we finished the trail, we were driving to visit family in Nebraska. It didn’t make sense to finish the trail and add two hours of driving time.

Bill from Black Hills Discovery Tours picked us up at Edgemont Park and shuttled us to Deadwood. Before we booked him, we verified that he could haul our bikes and the bike trailer. There was plenty of room for us in his van. I highly recommend Bill if you need shuttle services. He was professional, and very knowledgeable. He gave us a lot of history on Western South Dakota, and once we arrived at Deadwood, showed us around the town and told us where the best places to eat were.

George S Mickelson Trail - Deadwood Trailhead

Based on online suggestions, we stayed at the Super 8 in Deadwood. They didn’t bat an eye when we hauled our bikes and the Weehoo bike trailer through the front lobby, into our hotel room. We could see the George S. Mickelson trail from our hotel room and could have hopped on the trail from the parking lot, but me being a stickler for things, we had to ride the 5 minutes to the official starting line.

George S Mickelson Trail - bikepacking

We rode the trail in two days. The first day we rode to Custer, which is about 65 miles away. The first 19 miles of the trail from Deadwood to Dumont has the longest incline. There is an average 4% grade along the trail, and in the beginning, you feel it. My husband worked his tail off during this portion. Not only did he pull Brecken in the trailer (which in itself is about 80 lbs), he was also sick. Upon reflection he probably had walking pneumonia, but he’s never been one to let a little illness stop him.

George S Mickelson Trail - bridges

George S Mickelson Trail - rails to trails

George S Mickelson Trail - Rochford

The Rochford “Mall”

There are some pretty cool things to see along the trail, and there is no way I could describe them all. Pictures won’t even do them justice. Definitely have a camera easily accessible and stop to take several photos along the way. Our plan was to stop in Rochford and eat at the Moonshine Bar & Grill. We stopped, but it wasn’t open. Fortunately the local grocery store was open and instead of burgers and beer, we had lunchables, refrigerated hamburgers and lemonade. I asked the lady running the grocery store what time Moonshine opened, and she said whenever the owner woke up. Good to know for future trips.

George S Mickelson Trail - Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse monument in the background.

As we approached Custer, we had a great view of Crazy Horse. It was definitely a spot where I had to get a picture of Kurt and Brecken. Another great thing about this section is it’s downhill! We coasted the last 5 miles into Custer, and at that point, my legs welcomed it.

Once we reached Custer, our first order of business was food! We ate at the Pizza Mill In Custer because it was close to the trail. The Pizza Mill has an outdoor patio so we could sit outside and watch over our bikes while we ate. One tip for anyone eating here, if they can’t serve alcohol (because no one over 21 is available to sell it), walk to the grocery store across the street and bring it back. Several of us did that!

George S Mickelson Trail - Bikepacking

Our sleeping accommodations for the night were at Fort Williket Campground. I’ve stayed at a few different campgrounds during my outdoor experiences and I’d give this one a 4 out of 5 stars. The tent sites were spaced out and I didn’t feel like we were on top of our neighbors. The bathrooms/showers were clean and roomy, and most importantly, had great water pressure AND plenty of hot water. There were activities for the kids to do, but we were so tired our only goal was bed.

We woke up early the next morning and ate at the Baker’s Bakery & Cafe (they opened at 6:30), then hopped on our bikes. Day 2 was a bit shorter, only 40 miles. We thought there was no way this section would be as scenic, but it didn’t disappoint either. The scenery was different but still gorgeous. There were a few sections that ran by the highway, but even that didn’t bother me. Bill, our shuttle driver, even saw us along this stretch of trail. We were easy to spot with the trailer.

George S Mickelson Trail - bridge

George S Mickelson Trail - Sheep Canyon

One of my favorite areas on day 2 was Sheep Canyon. Leading up to this area you pass under a large steel bridge, which is a nice photo op, and then you unexpectedly ride into this canyon area. There is a trail stop here that has cold water and a bathroom. This area was really cool. We rested here a few minutes before finishing the trail.

George S Mickelson Trail - Edgemont Trailhead

Finally, after 109 miles, you ride into Edgemont. Getting back to the trailhead from the trail, can be a bit tricky. We went straight by actual trains, instead of turning left onto the pavement. In the greatest of ironies, we had to wait about 10 minutes to finish our ride because we were stopped by a…train.

If you’re into biking, beautiful scenery, and being outdoors, then add this trail to your list. You won’t be disappointed. We’ve had 2 others friends ride the trail and they absolutely enjoyed it too.

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.


  1. That is so beautiful! South Dakota is such a gorgeous state, I’d love to get there one day.

  2. South Dakota is a beautiful state. I love all mountainous terrain. That tunnel is super cool.

  3. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous! We love to go biking as a family. I’d love to make family trip of this. It’s so pretty there!

  4. Wow what an absolutely beautiful looking place to spend some time, I would love to be able to explore more of the US one day as it has such beautiful views.

  5. I give your husband a lot of credit for being a real trooper, sick and hauling a little one. That trail really is great what amazing sites so I see why you chose this.

  6. Pam Wattenbarger says:

    Wow, what beautiful photos from the trail. It looks like gorgeous scenery to bike-pack through.

  7. That looks like such a wonderful time. I really love the idea of going bikepacking with the family! We talk about it but I don’t know if I can last that long on a bike after years of not riding one. Beautiful photos!

  8. The trail looks so picturesque! I love to bikepack because it’s a great way to take in the scenery at a leisurely pace. This trail sounds like one my family would enjoy as well!

  9. Jeanine says:

    Now, this would be something to do with my family. we’d all really enjoy it. We havent gone biking as a family in such a long time!

  10. What a fun idea to do with the kids! I am sure my kids will love this too! Will save this for our next trip to South Dakota!

  11. Annemarie LeBlanc says:

    Your photos are stunning! It really showed how beautiful the trail is! I loved the “mall.” So rustic but still awesome. I wish I could still go on adventures like that, but these old knees would complain after a few miles. 🙂

  12. Biking is awesome and it’s a great way to explore a new city or state! I think it’s awesome that you guys did this an included your daughter in the experience! SO COOL!

  13. Bike packing sounds like an awesome activity for the whole family! I love that you were able to do so much during your trip and it’s a great way to keep yourself physically active as well. This is so much fun!

  14. Angela Milnes says:

    Wow. you really had fun there and I love this kind of activity for the family we love biking too.

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