From charming Hill City, the Heart of the Hills Overnighter explores about 80 miles of rough, remote USFS roads and almost 10 miles of rails-to-trails Mickelson Trail for a two day tour showcasing the best of the Black Hills of South Dakota.
This forested, hilly loop passes a restored abandoned gold mine, crosses over a trestle, eeks through old railroad tunnels, follows trout filled streams, sidesteps to the iconic Moonshine Gulch Saloon, climbs along a beaver dammed creek to an abandoned stone lookout tower, and meanders up and down rough Forest Service roads through prime elk country back to Hill City.
At about 40 miles into this 90 mile loop awaits the idyllic USFS Black Fox primitive campground, a sweet spot to spend the evening. Of course, one may choose to disperse camp throughout much of the Black Hills. In particular, one may wish to climb another 12 miles past Black Fox to camp atop Flag Mountain by the lookout tower.
Potable water is available at the Mystic Trailhead of the Mickelson Trail (mile 16.5 of Day 1), at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon, the Rochford Mall, and the Mickelson Trailhead in Rochford (mile 32.5 of Day 1), and at the USFS White Tail Campground (mile 19.2 of Day 2). The Moonshine Gulch Saloon also offers bar food and drinks, while the Rochford Mall sells light snacks.
Located an easy 26 miles from Rapid City, Hill City is a thriving timber and tourism town of about 1,000 residents. It offers a variety of shops and art galleries, motels and campgrounds, and restaurants and bars, including the upscale Alpine Inn, popular Miner Brewing Company microbrewery, and relaxing Prairie Berry winery. Hill City also is minutes away from Mt. Rushmore National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, and the granite towers of Cathedral Spires along Needles Highway. The Heart of the Hills is an ideal place to launch a Black Hills adventure.
|Mystic Road passing under a Mickelson Trail trestle near the Mystic Trailhead.