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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spearfish to O'Neil Pass

Coasting into the college town of Spearfish after about 135 miles of big prairie gravel and dirt, the Black Hills BackBone is about to earn its name.  Time to climb into the Hills.

It starts early on the 30 mile climb out of Spearfish.

From the corner of Hills View Road and McGuigan Road, spin south on McGuigan Road and get comfortable going uphill.  That's what's ahead for most of the next 30 miles.  Yep.  30 miles.

That's a lot of signs for a t-bone intersection.  Just go up. 
At about 1.5 miles, McGuigan Road t-bones into Tinton Road (USFS 134).  Turn right (west) onto Tinton Road.  Relative to the rest of the BackBone, there's a fair amount of rural residential development and some logging along this road, with the attendant traffic.  But the roads are wide for these parts and the sight lines moderate, so it's a nice ride, if a little rough.


Up into the Hills.  

Tinton Road (134) steadily climbs past several Northern Hills destinations, including Big Hill, a popular snowmobile area, Iron Creek Lake, home of the Iron Creek X-Terra triathlon and School House Gulch Road, which leads to Cement Ridge lookout, a highlight of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.  The road twists and turns, climbs and climbs, and sometimes drops a bit, before climbing again.  Do not take any of the numerous other roads, at least not on this ride.  Stay on 134 for 26 miles until you finally emerge on paved U.S. Highway 85, the CanAm Highway.

Confirmation of the climb.

 Turn right (west) onto paved U.S. Highway 85 for about 1.5 miles of more uphill.  Just before the top at O'Neil Pass, turn left (south) onto graveled O'Neil Pass Road.  The long climb is over.  Many shorter climbs lie ahead.

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