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Michelson Bike-packing, Shortened, Summer 2019

The Michelson Trail is a bike trail; specifically a Rails to Trails path.  Click the above link for a broad overview.  The trail is 109 miles long stretching from Edgemont, SD to Deadwood, SD in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.  Much of the trail is through National Forest Land, but also through private property.  The trail is packed gravel and easy to moderate as it is a railroad grade.  The weather is ideal for outdoor adventures with very little humidity.  

There are many different options for biking here.  Bryan and Grace rode the entire length on a bike packing trip.  Click here.   Where you start and end is up to you.  Many people will base their start and end to incorporate mostly down hill.  Of course you can not completely avoid uphill.  You know the saying...what comes up and vice versa.  But you can definitely look at the map and check the elevation gains and structure your trip accordingly.  Love this map with the elevation measures on the side!  So helpful! So in a nutshell, you can change up the routes, distances, and how much you carry to your liking.  

Another note:  be prepared for weather.  We hit severe storms about 10 miles before Carsten Cottages.  We were pelleted with rain, thunderstorms, and then HAIL!  You must be prepared, in other words RAIN GEAR is a must.  Good quality.  Check out our equipment review page for ideas.  


Ok, this trip, summer 2019.  We planned to start the biking in Custer at the trail head there and finishing in Deadwood.  64.5 miles.  Our plan was to take minimal stuff, no tents, no cooking.  With that said, you have to make sure the places you sleep have what you need for sleeping and eating.  More below.  So I will try to succinctly summarize how we did this. 


1.  July 6th arrive at Carsten Cottages.  Great, great place.  Located just south of Dumont Trailhead on Rochford Road in the Black Hills, with direct access to the Michelson Trail.  Clean, no frills but totally well-equipped.  They are on the trail and cater to bikers (including motorcyclists).  They know you try to carry as little as possible on your packs so they have bedding, towels, toiletries, laundry, dvds, wifi, games, etc.  Awesome place!  We stayed here and got all our gear and packs ready.  


2.  July 7th drive to Deadwood Trailhead.  Here we unloaded our bikes and gear, locked up the car and waited for our shuttle ride.  We used Michelson Trail Adventures.  It was $150 to shuttle all 5 of us and our 5 bikes and gear.  He brought us to our starting point, Harbach Park Trailhead in Custer.  


3.    We would start biking at this point.  The 1st overnight destination we planned was at Echo Valley Campground in Custer.  It was $50 for a cabin.  They have two newer ones and an older one.  Somehow we ended up in the older one.  It was ok.  The newer cabins were cuter.  But, they do not provide bedding or towels so be aware.  We needed to pack our sleeping bags just for

this night.  Next trip I will look for a different scenario.  Also, there is no means to cook here.  We bought subway sandwiches at the Custer Trailhead before we biked to the campground and this would be our dinner.  We had planned for breakfast and lunch the next morning and had that packed up.  Very basic and simple.  Click here for meal ideas.


4.  July 8th we biked out of Echo Valley to Crazy Horse Memorial.  We spent several hours here.  It is such an interesting place.  We highly recommend it! Then we began a long descent to Hill City.  What a ride.  Beautiful, downhill into this awesome city!  Our destination, Best Western Golden Spike, Hill City SD  We had a blast here.  Super clean hotel, wonderful indoor and outdoor pool, laundry facilities, and we could bike into town for dinner and ice cream.  Such a cool town!  Here is another opportunity to customize your trip.  This would be a great place to spend 2 nights.  We all loved the pools and the town is super cool to explore.


5.  July 9th we enjoyed a free breakfast at the hotel and then began the journey to Carsten Cottages, near the Dumont Trailhead.  So this day was about 32 miles and a large part up hill.  Beautiful country.   Love Carsten Cottages.  


6.  July 10 was our last day from Carsten Cottages to Deadwood, approximately 16 miles.  The end of the trail is this amazing downhill!  And then there was our car waiting at the trailhead parking area and a neat city to explore.

How to do this trip

Decide on a route!  Use the map, decide how much time, distance, and level of packing.  

Choose lodging based upon mileage and level of packing

Equipment List

Food Ideas

Michelson Trail Guide

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