The Black Hills of South Dakota rise above the plains and create a cool summer environment, perfect for riding the twisty turny terrain found here.
Black Hills National Forest includes lots of fun singletrack trails and dirt roads rolling through spruce groves and grassy meadows. Goldenrod and Echineacea grow wild everywhere, along with all kinds of sunflowers.
The itinerary includes great sections of the Centennial Trail and the Deerfield Trail just outside of Silver City, South Dakota. Every camp is on a beautiful lake, making this singletrack and camping heaven. And to top it off, on day three we take a party barge out on the lake for swimming.
The Black Hills tour is a great trip at low altitude with fun singletrack and lots of swimming opportunities.
Day by Day Itinerary
TRIP DAY 1
After meeting in Rapid City, we will begin our trip with a shuttle to Rochford, South Dakota in the heart of the Black Hills. The Black Hills has a rich mining history and our first evidence of that is the name of the drainage near the start of our ride: Poverty Gulch! But wealth was to be found, and removed via railroad. Many sections of the original rail system have been converted to trail. We'll start our ride today on the George Mickelson Rail Trail near the Rochford fire station. The pedaling is easy and allows us to take in the magnitude of the sheer granite valley walls. We'll have lunch in the town of Mystic where we can tour the abandoned buildings of the gold mining era. We'll pick up the Deerfield Trail for a little more technical riding in the afternoon. The doubletrack starts with a good climb winding up the Crooked Creek drainage. Short sections of singletrack along the way deliver us to Slate Prairie, a beautiful meadow where Mt. Harney looms as a backdrop. We will ride more singletrack rolling along the knolls of the meadow before descending into Kinney Canyon. We will camp tonight on a private bay inlet of Deerfield Lake. TOTAL MILEAGE - 24 miles, shorter mileage options are available
TRIP DAY 2
Today we head back east through the Deerfield drainage. The trail will seem familiar, since we climbed it yesterday, but the fun of descending makes it feel like a whole new ride. In the afternoon our ride takes us through a dense Ponderosa forest on a combination of old doubletrack and technical singletrack. Much of the trail is swooping and smooth, with intermittent pitches of steep rocky sections. The Black Hills were created by an uplift of metamorphic and igneous rock. Initially, these underlying rocks were covered by marine sediments, primarily limestone, some 65 million years ago. Since then, erosion has taken away the central part of the limestone forming an elliptical donut. This donut has granite, slate and schist of igneous origin in the center and marine limestone all around it. Evidence of this history is exposed in the sheer schist walls surrounding Slate Creek, where we'll camp for the night. Before dinner, you may opt for a quick splash in Slate Creek or a hike up through the metamorphic rock formation. TOTAL MILEAGE - 27 miles, shorter mileage options are available
TRIP DAY 3
We'll begin our ride this morning by climbing Skull Gulch on a beautiful dirt road, working our way up to the Tiffel Mine, an abandoned gold mine. Many of these trails and roads were created by energetic gold miners in the 1870's. We'll climb and roll through the Ponderosa forest and eventually join a rolling fire road down Nugget Gulch to arrive in historic Silver City. We continue riding to Pactola Reservoir where we will be met by a party barge for a cruise across the lake to our camp at Bear Gulch.
About The Operator:
Western Spirit Cycling
The History of Western Spirit
"Back in the day", as our oldest guides say, Western Spirit Cycling was founded by a charismatic mad bike rider named Lu Warner. It was 1989; Lu couldn't get enough of riding his bike and decided he should impart some of his joy on the masses. He acquired a Suburban, dubbed "the burb” and a couple of guides and started taking people around the White Rim. Now Lu can be found in some semi-state of retirement in Crested Butte, CO, but his vision was just the beginning.
Just for the record, yes, we still have the burb. It's retired. And those "couple of guides" are our finest Rachel & Johnny - no sign of retirement there!
Then the Mid-90s
Ashley Korenblat bought Western Spirit in 1997 and since then has spent many days riding unknown trails (with a headlamp in her backpack, just in case) creating the plethora of trips that Western Spirit now offers. Ashley is a graduate of Dartmouth and Tuck Business School, a former bike racer, former Wall Street captive and possessor of entrepreneurial spirit. She was president of Merlin during the Titanium mountain bike heyday and served as the IMBA President working to sustain trail availability to everyone. Combine all that with the desire for a Moab lifestyle and an alternative view of a fulfilling career path, and you have the perfect recipe for the owner of a cycling tour company. Enter Mark. Mark is our charming, wicked-fit, voice of reason, miraculously lured from his ski town tradition to live in the desert. Ashley and Mark got married in 1999 in Moab and now run the company together.
Well, actually Kip runs the place. Kip is Ashley and Mark's young boy and he has his own bike helmet and chariot. He is also beginning to tear it up on the dirt with his training wheels.
Our office staff is comprised of mostly gals...and Mark. Thank goodness for Mark! Mark is our bike junkie and can be seen pedaling on a daily basis. Ashley makes the best backcountry bacon you will ever have, but definitely burns off those calories towing the little Kipster around town in his trailer. Anne Clare loves riding her road bike and hiking in the mountains. Sheri and Tonya both love the water and do their best to kayak 365 days a year. Emily is pretty "green". She is the founder of a non-profit organization, Community Rebuilds that promotes affordable and eco-friendly housing.
All of us have worked outdoors and are familiar with what you will experience on a Western Spirit trip. At any given time when you call you can talk to someone who has been on any trip that interests you. That's because we love to be out there too!
In our busy world, we often don't get to be outside enough. Even if you do, there's some phenomenon that just makes you want more. Nothing like going somewhere to make you realize all the other places you still need to go! Traveling outside makes you see Mars when it's the closest to earth it'll ever be, makes you smell the fragrant lupine covering the mountain slope, makes you feel the wind, see the perfect sunset, catch an eclipse of the moon, experience the herd of elk in the alpine meadow, and start to tell time by the location of the moon in the night sky.
What's that all worth in our busy world? Well, it is our world.
On all of our tours, we strive to protect our fragile mountain and desert environments. Many of our campsites are remote and unimproved, and we seek to leave them better than we found them.
Food is one thing we take pretty seriously. Our guides are great backcountry chefs and your trip includes all meals from lunch on first day to lunch on last day.
Our customized trucks and vans carry all of your gear as well as many camper comforts! We have the coolest custom F-450's in the industry. Our guides have incredible backcountry experience, but the best part is that they are all super friendly and look forward to a week of riding with you.
We camp primarily in pristine locations where it's quiet, dark and peaceful. The finest morning view comes with a hot cup of cowboy coffee. All shuttles are included from our meeting place to the start of your ride. At the end of the trip we shuttle back to our meeting place.
Western Spirit Cycling, Inc. operates under special use permits from the USDA Forest Service in the Boise, Coronado, Dixie, Grand Mesa, Gunnison, Kaibab, Manti La Sal (Moab and Monticello Ranger Districts), San Juan, Sawtooth, Sierra Vista, Uncompahgre, Challis, Clearwater, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Caribou-Targhee, Black Hills, Mount Hood, Umpqua, Nantahala, White Mountain, Monongahela, and Pisgah National Forests and by Dakota Prairie Grasslands. As well as under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management in the San Juan Resource Area; Henry Mountain Field Station; Moab, Arizona Strip and Grand Junction Field Offices; Grand Staircase National Monument; and by Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake and Blue Ridge Parkway National Parks. Western Spirit is a concessionaire in Canyonlands National Park.