The Black Hills of South Dakota are an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. There are plenty of fast-running streams and lakes for fishing and water sports. The national parks and state parks are great for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and you can also enjoy great rock climbing and exciting spelunking tours.
In particular, there are two special trails for hikers and bikers worth exploring on a visit here. The George S. Mickelson Trail winds 108.8 miles along the historic Deadwood to Edgemont Burlington Northern rail line, which was abandoned in 1983. The trail is gravel and, with a grade of less than 3 percent, is accessible to most mobility-impaired users. There is a fee to use the trail of $3 per day or $15 per year. You can download a trail map and obtain other information about the trail at www.mickelsontrail.com, or contact the Black Hills Trails Office at 605/584-3896. The Mickelson Trail is maintained by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
The Centennial Trail is another trail maintained by South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. The trail is 111 miles long and winds through much of the scenic beauty of South Dakota. The trail starts in the prairies south of Bear Butte, near Sturgis, and winds through Black Hills National Forest land, the Black Elk Wilderness Area, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave. The trail is open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding (except for portions located in Wind Cave, where only hiking is allowed).
Information about both trails can also be found on the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks website, www.sdgfp.info. You can find information about hunting and fishing licenses at this site, as well.
In addition to private campgrounds, the Black Hills National Forest and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks offer several campgrounds. Some of the campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis and some take reservations. Some are open all year and some are seasonal.
For listings and information about all of the Black Hills National Forest Campgrounds, visit www.fs.fed.us/r2/blackhills/recreation/camping. Information includes fees, reservation requirements, whether or not the campground is open all year, and if there is drinking water available, and for some, maps are available. For campgrounds that take reservations, reservations can be made by calling 877/444-6777 or going online at www.Recreation.gov.
Information about South Dakota State Campground facilities, which include Angostura Recreation Area and Custer State Park, can be found at www.sdgfp.info/Parks/General/Accommodations.htm. To make reservations at a South Dakota state campground call 800/710-2267 or go to www.campsd.com.
The federal government offers an annual pass, called the America the Beautiful—National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, to the public that allows entrance to any national park or federal recreation lands with an entrance fee or standard amenities fee. The cost of the pass is $80 per year for adults and $10 for a lifetime pass for seniors over 62 years of age. Access passes for the disabled are free and require proof of disability with either a doctor’s note or federal disability paperwork.
While the Black Hills and Badlands contain a lot of federal lands—including Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Mount Rushmore, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Badlands National Park—standard passes will only be honored at Badlands National Park.
There are no entrance fees at any of the other sites, though you will have to pay for parking at Mount Rushmore and for cave tours at the cave sites. If this is the only area where you are planning to visit national recreation lands in the current year, the cost of the pass may not be cost effective. The cost to enter Badlands National Park is $15 per car.
Custer State Park is also a fee area. A temporary pass is available for $6 per person or $15 per vehicle and is good for seven days. The annual pass is $28. The Mickelson Trail, a walking/biking path that runs from Edgemont to Deadwood, requires a trail pass, which costs $3 per day or $15 a year.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition