GPT Photo of the Week

Rolling hills – or is it just a rolling hill? Can one hill roll, or do you need more than one in order for the rolling to commence?

Oglala National Grassland, Nebraska

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Data Book: SOBO Bike

A trilogy is a series of three books. Apparently, a tetralogy is a series of four books (although quartet and quadrilogy are sometimes used). Anyway, here is the fourth and final Data Book for the GPT Pilot Trail – the Southbound Bike version:

Data Book (1.0) – 2019 – Southbound BIKE

Great Plains Trail – Pilot Trail – Bear Butte SP to Scottsbluff Nat. Mon. (approx. 350 Miles)

General/Safety Notes: This book is intended to use for route information. It is not a full guide book. This book is also subject to errors and omissions. Please be aware of hazards along the way including, but not limited to: fatigue, weather conditions, water supply, food supply, wildlife, insects, and vehicle traffic. Although the Pilot Trail is possible as a self-supported hike, it is always a good idea to have a support network in place if needed. Be sure to tell people when and where you’re going and check in with them on a regular basis. You may want to consider placing water caches along the route in sections where it is a long way between re-supply points. You may also want to consider assembling and mailing care packages via general delivery to post offices in towns along the route.

Public transportation is limited in Sturgis, SD. Lyft rideshare operates in Rapid City which is a 30 min drive from Sturgis. Rapid City Regional Airport has daily flights to Denver, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis.

There are a number of hotel options and campgrounds in Sturgis. For the purposes of this data book, we are starting from the campground at Bear Butte Lake next to Bear Butte State Park.

Section 1 – Bear Butte State Park to Sturgis (15 Mi – Includes hike to Bear Butte summit)

                –From the CG at Bear Butte Lake, head E to Hwy 79, and then briefly S on Hwy 79 to the park entrance.  Bikes are now allowed on Bear Butte State Park trails, so follow the main park road about 1.5 mi to the visitor center. From the VC, there is a 2.7 mi hiking trail to the top of Bear Butte. Return the same way to the VC.

-From the VC, return to Hwy 79 and cross to the S side of Bear Butte Lake. This is where you pick up the Centennial Trail (CT). Follow the 4’ fiberglass signs S to where the CT crosses Hwy 79 near Fort Meade.

Note: The bike route for the GPT uses the Mickelson Trail. A biker could use the Centennial Trail, which roughly parallels the Mickelson Trail through the Black Hills, but is far more rugged and has two sections of trail where bikes are not allowed – Wind Cave National Park and Black Elk Wilderness. Bikers wishing to use this trail would have to bypass these areas on roads. The CT is much more rugged and challenging than the MT. The MT requires a daily pass ($4) or a yearly pass ($15). Passes can be purchased at the trailheads or in most of the trail towns.

A bicyclist has many options for itineraries. The following itinerary is one possible option:

                -Head W on Hwy 79 about 2 mi into Sturgis. Sturgis has all available amenities. Option: A biker could stay in Sturgis and have a shorter first day, or could continue to Deadwood.

Section 2 – Sturgis to Hill City (65 Mi)

-The northern terminus of the MT is in Deadwood. The fastest option from Sturgis is Hwy 14, which is a very busy road. Another, more adventurous option is to take Vanocker Canyon Road from the S end of Sturgis to FS Rd 170 which connects with Hwy 385 and then into Deadwood. There is a superfund site mine along this route and it may not be open for travel. Time will tell what the best route is, but for now, use your best judgement.

-The MT northern terminus and Deadwood TH is located on behind Charles St. across from the Lead-Deadwood Hospital. Follow the MT S  about 3.5 mi to the Kirk TH. From the Kirk TH, you can either take a spur trail into Lead, and then S to the Sugarloaf TH, or you can take a slightly shorter, but more challenging route that skips the town of Lead and connects to the main MT S of the Sugarloaf TH. Either way, you will continue S on the MT about 5 mi to the Englewood TH. You will pass the Dumont TH about 6 mi further.

-In between here and Hill City, the MT goes through a series of four tunnels. The first tunnel (Tunnel D) is about 5 mi S of the Dumont TH with the small hamlet of Rochford about 3 mi beyond the tunnel. Rochford has some basic amenities.  Tunnel C is 5.7 mi S from Rochford. The Mystic TH is about 2 mi from Tunnel C. Tunnels B and A are about 2 mi past Mystic TH. After Tunnel A, the town of Hill City is about 12 mi further.

– The Burlington Northern Hill City TH is in the center of town on Railroad Ave. The town of Hill City has all available amenities.

Section 3 – The Mickelson Trail – Hill City to Custer (16 Mi)

-Head S from Hill City on the MT for about 3 mi as it mostly parallels Hwy 385. Option: About 0.25 mi after the MT crosses over 385 and just before the Bar J Ranch entrance, you could follow Hwy 87 SE to the Sylvan Lake area where the Harney Peak TH leads to Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. From the sylvan Lake area, you can then take Hwy 89 S into Custer.

-Otherwise, continue on the MT past the sculpture of Crazy Horse and the Mountain TH, and into the town of Custer. The Harbach TH in Custer is located S of Washington St. across from the Custer Chamber of Commerce. The town of Custer has all available amenities.

Section 4 – The Mickelson Trail – Custer to Edgemont (45 Mi)

-From the Harbach TH in Custer, head briefly W then S on the MT which mostly parallels Hwy 385 for 9 mi to the White Elephant TH, and then another 3.6 mi into the town of Pringle. Pringle has food, water, and lodging available.

-Continue S from Pringle16 mi to the Minnekahta TH where the MT crosses Hwy 18. From there, the MT winds mostly S to the town of Edgemont. To get to the actual southern terminus (0.0 mile marker), turn left at the Mickelson Trail sign, and cross the tracks, then turn immediately S on Old Hwy 18 and follow it for about 0.5 mi as it crosses the river and another set of tracks. Just after crossing the tracks, this road becomes A St. Follow A St one block to 2nd Ave, and head S on 2nd Ave six blocks to a city park and the 0.0 mile marker.

-Edgemont Campground is just a block south of the Mickelson 0.0 mile marker-ph. 605-662-7057 ($10). There are also a few hotels in town.

Section 5 – Edgemont to Toadstool Geologic Park (53 Mi)

-From the 0.0 mile marker, head S on Hwy 471 for 8 mi to the town of Provo. Continue through Provo on 471 and head briefly E for about 0.5 mi. Head S on Edgemont Rd (dirt) for 11 mi to T junction with Ardmore Rd. Head W at T junction and stay on Edgemont Rd for 3 mi to a Y junction with Wyoming Rd. Head S at this junction and stay on Edgemont Rd. In about 1.5 mi, you will cross into Nebraska. Continue S on Edgemont Rd. About 2.5 mi S of the SD/NE border, look for FS rd 930 on the W side of the road. Option: This is a possible campsite which would roughly cut this section in half. If camping, head W on 930 and look for campsite options away from the road. This is a public land section of Oglala National Grassland.

-From FS rd 930, head S on Edgemont Rd 3.6 mi to junction with Montrose Rd. Head E on Montrose Rd four mi to junction with Pants Butte Rd. At this junction, head N and stay on Montrose Rd. Montrose Rd then turns E for about 4 mi to Montrose church and Warbonnet Memorial. The memorial sits 0.1 mi away on a hilltop and can be accessed through the gate.

-From Montrose church, head S on Hat Creek Rd (it jogs briefly E) for 3.5 mi to junction with Orella Rd. Head E for 8 mi on Orella Rd to Toadstool Rd. Head S on Toadstool Rd for one mi before heading W one mi to Toadstool Campground. There is a $5 camping fee and a $3 day use fee.

 

Section 6 – Toadstool Geologic Park to Fort Robinson (25 Mi)

Option: The GPT Bike Route goes to Scottsbluff NM via Agate Fossil Beds NM and Mitchell. the GPT Hike Route goes to Scottsbluff via the Pine Ridge Trail and Alliance. A biker could use potentially use either route. Refer to the data book for hiking for information on the Alliance route.

-From the Toadstool Campground, follow the Bison Trail 3 mi S to the Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed Visitor Center. Follow the main road S about 0.7 mi to a junction with Sand Creek Rd. Head very briefly E, then turn S on Milo Rd for about 5.5 mi to Cottonwood Rd. Head briefly E on Cottonwood Rd and then head S on Rim Rock Rd. Follow Rim Rock Rd as it turns S and E for about 6 mi to junction with Moody Rd. Head E on Moody Rd for 2 mi. Head S on Dodd Rd for one mi. Dodd Rd turns E for one mi to near the RR tracks. Head S on Dodd Rd one mile at the tracks and into the town of Crawford. Crawford has basic amenities if needed. Pick up the White River Trail stays on NW side of town where it begins at the Crawford City Park.

-Follow the White River Trail as it hugs the W edge of town 3 mi to Fort Robinson State park. The campgrounds are located near the end of the WRT on the S side of Hwy 20. Ft. Robinson requires a day use pass for $6-$8 and camping fees are $10-$15. Reservations may be needed.

Section 7 – Fort Robinson State park to Mitchell (60 Mi)

-From Ft. Robinson, Head W on Hwy 20 about 2 mi to Vogl Loop Rd. Head S on Vogl Loop Rd about 1 mi to Glendy Rd. Head S on Glendy Rd for 2 mi to Four Mile Rd. Head W on Four Mile Rd for one mi. Four Mile Rd becomes White River Rd. Continue W on White River Rd for 3 mi to junction with Corkscrew Rd. Head S on Corkscrew Rd as it winds up into a forested area. Corkscrew Rd eventually becomes Pink School House Rd. Stay S on these roads for 12.5 mi to junction with River Rd at the pink school house. Head W on River Rd to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.

-Stay W on main park Rd through the monument for 2 mi to junction with Hwy 29. Head S on Hwy 29 34 mi to town of Mitchell. Mitchell has all available amenities. The Scottsbluff County Fairgrounds are on the W side of town and has a campground.

Section 8 – Mitchell to Scottsbluff National Monument (20 Mi)

                -From Mitchell, head S on S Mitchell Rd for 3 mi to CR H. Head E on CR H for one mile to tracks. Cross the tracks and then turn S on CR 15 for one mile as it parallels the tracks heading SE to Thrush Rd. Head E on Thrush Rd for one mi to CR 16. Head S on CR 16 one mi and parallel tracks to CR J. Head E on CR J for one mi where it turns S and become CR 17. Head S on CR 17 for about 1.5 mi to Hwy 92. Head E on Hwy 92 for 3 mi to junction with 20th St and S Beltline Hwy, Head S on S Beltline Hwy for one mi and pick up the Monument Valley Pathway just after the road turns E.  Follow the Monument Valley Pathway S and then E to the Scottsbluff Municipal Campground.

-Follow the MVP and cross the river at 10 St. Then follow the MVP past Terry Lake and the ballfield to Country Club Rd. Head W on Country Club Rd about 1 mi to dead end. Head S along the perimeter of Scottsbluff National Monument to the Prairie View Trail and take the Prairie View Trail to the visitor center. The top of the bluff is typically closed to bicycles, so to access it, you would need to hike to the top via the Saddle Rock Trail and return the same way.

Camping near Scottsbluff – Robidoux RV CG 585 Five Rocks Rd, Gering, NE  308-436-2046 ($12). Riverside Municipal CG 1514 Beltline Hwy W, Scottsbluff, NE  308-632-6342 ($10) There are also hotels in Gering and SB.

Western NE Regional Airport has daily flights from Denver International (DIA). There is also a daily shuttle from DIA as well as bus service via Greyhound to points along I-80.  Lyft and Uber operate in Scottsbluff.

 

 

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Data Book: NOBO Bike

In writing the Data Books, biking presented several challenges. First, there are a few spots along the GPT Pilot Trail where bikes are not allowed – namely the trails at Scottsbluff National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, and anywhere in the Black Elk Wilderness. There are also a few spots where biking, while perfectly legit, might not be the best way to travel in rugged terrain such as in parts of Nebraska National Forest, and a whole bunch of the Centennial Trail. Lastly, because bikes can cover so much more ground, the route is much less rigid than a hike would be. Options abound, but for the purposes of the Data Book, the bike route will go to Fort Robinson State Park via Agate Fossil Beds National Monument instead of the town of Alliance. The other major departure is that the bike route will follow the Mickelson Trail instead of the Centennial Trail through the Black Hills.

Here is the Northbound version of the bike route:

Data Book (1.0) – 2019 – Northbound BIKE

Great Plains Trail – Pilot Trail – Scottsbluff Nat. Mon. to Bear Butte SP (approx. 350 Miles)

General/Safety Notes: This book is intended to use for route information. It is not a full guide book. This book is also subject to errors and omissions. Please be aware of hazards along the way including, but not limited to: fatigue, weather conditions, water supply, food supply, wildlife, insects, and vehicle traffic. Although the Pilot Trail is possible as a self-supported bike, it is always a good idea to have a support network in place if needed. Be sure to tell people when and where you’re going and check in with them on a regular basis. You may want to consider placing water caches along the route in sections where it is a long way between re-supply points. You may also want to consider assembling and mailing care packages via general delivery to post offices in towns along the route.

Western NE Regional Airport has daily flights from Denver International (DIA). There is also a daily shuttle from DIA as well as bus service via Greyhound to points along I-80. Lyft and Uber operate in Scottsbluff.

Camping near SB – Robidoux RV CG 585 Five Rocks Rd, Gering, NE  308-436-2046 ($12). Riverside Municipal CG 1514 Beltline Hwy W, Scottsbluff, NE  308-632-6342 ($10)

Section One – Scottsbluff National Monument to Fort Robinson State Park (80 Mi)

-Begin at Scottsbluff Visitor Center. The top of the bluff is typically closed to bicycles, so to access it, you would need to hike to the top via the Saddle Rock Trail and return the same way.

-From the VC, follow the Prairie View Trail along the perimeter of the park to Country Club Rd and head E until you cross the railroad tracks. Just after the tracks, pick up Monument Valley Pathway (MVP) and follow it N and E around the ball field, Terry Lake, and cross the river at 10th street. After crossing the river, head W 0.7 mi to Riverside CG. Follow the MVP past the campground for another 0.2 mi where it turns N for 0.1 mi to connect with Beltline Hwy. Option: The GPT Bike Route goes to Fort Robinson State Park via Mitchell and Agate Fossil Beds NM, the GPT Hike Route goes to Fort Robinson via Alliance and the Pine Ridge Trail. A biker could use potentially use either route. Refer to the data book for hiking for information on the Alliance route.

-Head N on Beltline Hwy for one mi to junction with 20th St/Hwy 92. Head W on Hwy 92 for 3 mi to junction with CR 17. Head N 1.5 mi on CR 17. Head W one mi on CR J. Head N 0.5 mi on CR 16. Head W 0.5 mi on Thrush Rd, then rd parallels RR tracks. Follow tracks then turn N to CR H. Head W on CR H for one mi to Mitchell S Hwy. Head N on Mitchell S Hwy for 3 mi into town of Mitchell. Option: The Scottsbluff County Fairgrounds on the W side of town and has a campground. This could be a short first day which would cut about 15 mi from the trip to Fort Robinson.

-From Mitchell, head N on Hwy 29 for 34 mi to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Head E on main road through the monument, the visitors center is about 3 mi from the turn off at Hwy 29. About one mi E of the VC, the road turns to gravel.

-Follow gravel road E for 7.5 mi. Head N at Pink School House Rd. for 12.5 mi to T junction at White River Rd. Head E on White River Rd for 3 mi. White River Rd turns N, keep heading E on Four Mile Rd for one mi. Head N on Glendy Rd for 2 mi to T junction. Head E on Vogl Loop for one mi to junction with Hwy 20. Head E on Hwy 20 for 2.5 mi to Fort Robinson State Park. The campgrounds are located on the S side of Hwy 20. Ft. Robinson requires a day use pass for $6-$8 and camping fees are $10-$15. Reservations may be needed.

Section 2 – Fort Robinson State Park to Toadstool Geologic Park (25 Mi)

-From Park HQ, head 0.1 mi E on Hwy 20 and turn S just before Comanche Hall. Head S for 0.25 mi to White River Rail Trail. Head E on White River Trail about 3 mi to town of Crawford. Crawford has basic amenities if needed. White River Trail stays on W side of town at ends at the Crawford City Park.

-From city park at NW corner of town, head north on 1st St to the edge of town, then head NNW at the Stockyard to Dodd Rd.

-Head N on Dodd Rd for one mi, then W for one mi at the railroad tracks. Turn N for one mi to Moody Rd. Head W on Moody Rd for two mi. Turn N at Rim Rock Rd for one mi, then turn W and follow Rim Rock Rd as it winds N and W for about 5 mi to Cottonwood Rd. Head W on Cottonwood Rd for only about 0.2 mi then turn N on Milo Rd.  Head N on Milo Rd for about 6 mi to Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed research center. The three-mile Bison Trail to Toadstool starts at the visitor center. Head N on Bison Trail following 4’ brown posts to Toadstool Campground. There is a $5 camping fee and a $3 day use fee.

Section 3 – Toadstool Geologic Park to Edgemont, South Dakota (53 Mi)

-From Toadstool CG, head E one mi to Toadstool Rd. Head N on Toadstool Rd for one mi to Orella Rd. Head W on Orella Rd about 8 mi to T junction at Hat Creek Rd. Head N on Hat Creek Rd (it jogs briefly W) for 3.5 mi to Montrose church and Warbonnet Memorial. The memorial sits 0.1 mi away on a hilltop and can be accessed through the gate.

-Head W on Montrose Rd for 4 mi (it jogs briefly S) to junction with Pants Butte Rd. Pants Butte Rd continues due S, but stay heading W on Montrose Rd for 4 mi to T junction with Edgemont Rd. Head N on Edgemont Rd for about 3.6 mi and look for the forest service road marker 930 on the west side of the road. Option: This is a possible campsite which would roughly cut this section in half. If camping, head W on 930 and look for campsite options away from the road. This is a public land section of Oglala National Grassland.

                -From FS Rd 930, head N on Edgemont Rd (road crosses into South Dakota after about 2.5 mi). About 1.5 mi after you enter SD, road bears east for about 3 mi before turning due N again at a junction with Ardmore Rd. Continue N on Edgemont Rd for 11 mi to T junction with 471 (paved road). Head W on 471 into town of Provo, then continue N on 471 eight mi to Edgemont and the Mickelson Trail 0.0 mi marker at city park at S end of 2nd Av.

-Edgemont Campground is just a block south of the Mickelson 0.0 mile marker-ph. 605-662-7057 ($10). There are also a few hotels in town.

Section 4 – The Mickelson Trail – Edgemont to Custer (45 Mi)

Note: The bike route for the GPT uses the Mickelson Trail. A biker could use the Centennial Trail, which roughly parallels the Mickelson Trail through the Black Hills, but is far more rugged and has two sections of trail where bikes are not allowed – Wind Cave National Park and Black Elk Wilderness. Bikers wishing to use this trail would have to bypass these areas on roads. The MT requires a daily pass ($4) or a yearly pass ($15). Passes can be purchased at the trailheads or in most of the trail towns.

A bicyclist has many options for itineraries. The following itinerary is one possible option.

-From Mickelson Trail (MT) 0.0 marker, head N on 2nd Av six blks to junction with A St. Head E on A St and follow it across the RR tracks and across the river where it becomes Old Hwy 18. In 0.5 mi veer left and cross another set of tracks. Just after crossing the tracks, pick up the MT which parallels the tracks and the hwy and heads NE. After about 2.5 mi, the MT veers off and hooks E and then SE before heading back N. The MT crosses Hwy 18 at mile marker 16.2. Note: Head E on Hwy 18 to Hot Springs if planning on going to Wind Cave NP and the Centennial Trail.

-Continue NNE 16 mi to the town of Pringle. The MT parallels Hwy 89 in some sections. Pringle has food, water, and lodging available.

-From Pringle, the MT parallels Hwy 385 on the W side. Continue N 3.5 mi to White Elephant TH. From there, the trail continues N for 6 mi and crosses under Hwy 385 about 3 mi S of Custer. The Harbach TH is located S of Washington St. across from the Custer Chamber of Commerce. The town of Custer has all available amenities.

Section 5 – The Mickelson Trail – Custer to Hill City (16 Mi)

                -From the Harbach TH, the MT heads E briefly before turning N. Option: You could leave the MT here and take ALT 16 E for 0.4 mi and then N on Hwy 89 for 7 mi to the Sylvan Lake area. The Harney Peak TH is at Sylvan Lake and could be hiked as a worthwhile side trip. You can return to the MT via Hwy 87, which switchbacks down for 5 mi to Hwy 385 and the MT Follow the MT N to Hill City.

                -Otherwise, continue N on the MT for 5 mi to the Mountain TH. The MT mostly parallels Hwy 385 in this area. Continue N past the Crazy Horse sculpture for another 10 mi to the town of Hill City. The Burlington Northern Hill City TH is in the center of town on Railroad Ave. The town of Hill City has all available amenities.

Section 5 – The Mickelson Trail – Hill City to Deadwood (50 Mi)

-From the Hill City TH, continue N on the MT. From here, the MT leaves the highways and starts to traverse more remote areas. The MT also passes through a series of four tunnels in this section. Tunnel A and B are about 12 mi N of Hill City, Mystic TH is about 1.7 mi N of Tunnel B, and Tunnel C is about 2.2 mi beyond Mystic TH. Option: About one mi beyond Tunnel C, the MT passes FS Rd 237 which heads NE from the trail. You could choose to leave the MT here and take FS Rd 237 N and E about 7 mi to the town of Merritt. From there, the Pilot Knob TH of the Centennial Trail (CT) is another mi E on Merritt Estes Rd. A biker can follow the CT N all the way to Bear Butte from there. The CT is much more rugged and challenging than the MT. Refer to the GPT data book for hikers for information on the CT in this area. There are restaurants, and an RV campground in Merritt and primitive camping in the National Forest nearby.

                -Otherwise from the junction with FS Rd 237, continue on the MT about 4.5 mi to the town of Rochford and the Rochford TH. Rochford has some basic amenities. Continue N for 2.7 mi to Tunnel D. The Dumont TH is another 7.3 mi N. The Englewood TH is about 6 mi N of Dumont.

-At mile 100.5, there is the start of a loop trail. The main trail heads to Sugarloaf TH just SW of the town of Lead, and then through Lead to the Kirk Trailhead. A secondary route bypasses the town of Lead and heads to the Kirk TH via a more difficult and more hilly route. The town of Lead has all available amenities.

-From the Kirk TH, follow the MT N 3.3 mi to the town of Deadwood and the northern terminus of the Mickelson Trail. The town of Deadwood has all available amenities.

Section 6 – Deadwood to Sturgis (14 Mi via Hwy 14)

-From Deadwood, the Great Plains Trail heads to Bear Butte State Park near Sturgis. The fastest option for this is Hwy 14, which is a very busy road. Another, more adventurous option is to return S about 5 mi on Hwy 385 to FS Rd 170 (Gilt Edge Rd), but this heads past a superfund mining site, and may not be open to public travel. Time will tell what the best route is, but for now, use your best judgement.

Section 7 – Sturgis to Bear Butte State Park (14 Mi – includes hike to Bear Butte summit)

-From Sturgis, head E on Hwy 79/34 about 2 mi to the Fort Meade TH of the Centennial Trail (CT). Follow the 4’ fiberglass signs with the number 89 on them N through Ft. Meade Recreation area for about 4 mi to the S side of Bear Butte Lake. Bikes are now allowed on Bear Butte State Park trails, so after crossing Hwy 79, follow the main park road about 1.5 mi to the visitor center. From the VC, there is a 2.7 mi hiking trail to the top of Bear Butte. Return the same way to the VC. Camping is available at the N side of Bear Butte Lake, or you can bike back to Sturgis which has all available amenities.

Public transportation is limited in Sturgis. Lyft rideshare operates in Rapid City which is a 30 min drive from Sturgis. Rapid City Regional Airport has daily flights to Denver, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis.

 

 

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Data Book: SOBO Hike

As promised, here is the 2nd of four Data Books for the GPT Pilot Trail. This is the Southbound Hike version, which details the route from Bear Butte State Park to Scottsbluff National Monument.

As a brief aside, writing the descriptions for heading in the opposite direction was far more challenging than just swapping the words “north” for “south,” “east for “west” and so on. It was really a totally different mindset, and it became a very different and unique route.

Anyway, here it is:

Data Book (1.0) – 2019 – Southbound HIKE

Great Plains Trail – Pilot Trail – Bear Butte SP to Scottsbluff Nat. Mon. (approx. 350 Miles)

General/Safety Notes: This book is intended to use for route information. It is not a full guide book. This book is also subject to errors and omissions. Please be aware of hazards along the way including, but not limited to: fatigue, weather conditions, water supply, food supply, wildlife, insects, and vehicle traffic. Although the Pilot Trail is possible as a self-supported hike, it is always a good idea to have a support network in place if needed. Be sure to tell people when and where you’re going and check in with them on a regular basis. You may want to consider placing water caches along the route in sections where it is a long way between re-supply points. You may also want to consider assembling and mailing care packages via general delivery to post offices in towns along the route.

Public transportation is limited in Sturgis, SD. Lyft rideshare operates in Rapid City which is a 30 min drive from Sturgis. Rapid City Regional Airport has daily flights to Denver, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis.

There are a number of hotel options and campgrounds in Sturgis. For the purposes of this data book, we are starting from the campground at Bear Butte Lake next to Bear Butte State Park.

Section 1 – Bear Butte State Park to Alkali Creek (20 Mi – Includes round trip to Bear Butte summit)

                –From the CG at Bear Butte Lake, head E to Hwy 79, and then briefly S on Hwy 79 to the park entrance. Follow the road briefly E until you see a gate with a trail heading N. Follow this trail N and then E about 1.5 mi to the visitor center. From the VC, there is a 2.7 mi hiking trail to the top of Bear Butte. Return the same way to the campground at the lake. Follow the road around to the S side of the lake where the you can pick up the Centennial Trail. Note: This is the N terminus of the 111 mi CT. The S terminus is at Wind Cave NP. Follow the brown 4’ fiberglass signs with the number 89 on them. They denote the CT when it is not obvious. The CT is primitive in spots and route finding can be difficult. Have a good topo map and a compass for this trail.  There are also a network of other trails in many areas. Unless otherwise noted, continue to follow the 89 markers.

                – Follow the CT mostly S and SW about 4 mi through open grassland to where it again crosses Hwy 79. Note: At this point, the town of Sturgis is just to the W if needed. Follow the gravel road S to the Fort Meade TH, and then follow the CT mostly S over the Dakota Hogback ridge about 6 mi to the Alkali Creek TH where there is a CG just to the E.

Section 2 – The Centennial Trail Alkali Creek to Dalton Lake (25 Mi)

-From the CG, head W on the CT and cross under I-90, then follow the exit ramp N to a to the trail which cuts W around the N side of the cemetary. Follow the CT mostly S about 10 mi through forest to the Elk Creek TH.

-From the Elk Creek TH, follow the CT S about 12 mi through forest and varied terrain to Dalton Lake where there is a NF campground ($18).

Section 3 – The Centennial Trail Dalton Lake to Merritt, South Dakota (16 Mi)

-Note: Be aware that this section allows for motorized use. From Dalton Lake, the CT heads S up several switchbacks and then follows a FS road W about 2 mi before turning mostly S about 6 mi to the small hamlet of Nemo. To get to Nemo, head S where the CT crosses Nemo Rd, and follow the road about 0.5 mi into town. The actual CT skirts around Nemo, but a thru hiker will want to re-supply in Nemo. Also, the signage for the CT is trickier here due to the motorized use of the trail.

-From Nemo, head W on Boxelder Forks Rd along Boxelder Creek about one mi to the South Boxelder TH for the CT. Head S on the CT across the creek and then W and S about 6 mi occasionally following FS rds tot eh Pilot Knob TH. From the Pilot Knob TH, follow Merritt Estes Rd about one mi into the small hamlet of Merritt. Note: Merritt has two restaurants, a general store, and an RV campground. Primitive camping would also be available in the national forest.

Section 4 – The Centennial Trail  –  Merritt to North Cove CG (22 Mi)

-From Merritt, you can head back to the Pilot Knob TH, and then S on the CT, or head S on Hwy 385 for about one mi to where the CT crosses the road. Either way, follow the CT S about two mi to the Deer Creek TH at the junction with Silver City Rd. Continue S on the CT as it mostly parallel Hwy 385 to the Pactola Reservoir. The CT crosses Hwy 385 near the boat launch and then S but stays on the E side of the Hwy. There is a forest service information center about 1.7 mi s on the Hwy. This could be used for information/rest stop. Otherwise, follow the CT to the Rapid Creek TH E of the reservoir.

-The CT crosses several streams in this section as it winds mostly S to the Brush Creek TH. The CT follows a FS rd for the last 0.5 mi before the TH.

-From the Brush Creek TH, the CT heads mostly S for about 6 mi and switches back and forth between two track and single track trails. Be alert for trail signage in the area. After crossing Sheridan Lake Rd, leave the trail and head S for about 0.1 mi to the North Cove CG area. This will be busy in high season, but should be quiet in the off season.

Section 5 – The Centennial Trail – North Cove CG to Horsethief Lake CG (13 Mi)

-From the CG, return to the CT where it crosses Sheridan Lake Rd, and continue S about 0.5 mi to Dakota Point TH. Continue S and follow the CT about 2 mi as it crosses the dam at the SE side of the lake to the Calumet TH. From the Calumet TH, the CT winds S and slightly W about 7 mi to the Samelius TH at Hwy 16. The CT goes under Hwy 16 and heads S for about 3 mi to the Big Pine TH.

-From the Big Pine TH, the Horsethief Lake CG is just 0.1 mi E on Hwy 244. Note: This campground is popular in the summer but might be a good option in the off season. There is also primitive camping allowed anywhere in the Black Elk Wilderness S of Hwy 244 (and in the National Forest N of 244) except within 0.25 mi of the Harney Peak Trail (no fires allowed).

Section 6 – The Centennial Trail – Horsethief Lake to Legion Lake (21Mi)

-From Horsethief Lake, return to the CT on the S side of Hwy 244. Follow the CT about 0.5 mi to the junction with Willow Creek Trail #5. Note: At this point, the Great Plains Trail leaves the CT briefly in order to connect with the Harney Peak Trail and the South Dakota state high point. Follow Willow Creek Trail #5 W about 1.5 mi to the junction with Harney Peak Trail #9. Follow Harney Peak Trail #9 S about 2.2 mi to the spur trail to Harney Peak. Note: Please register (free) at wilderness entry signs. Return to #9 the same way after summiting the peak.

-Head S on #9. After about 0.5 mi, there is a junction with the Norbeck Trail #3. Stay S on the Norbeck Trail #3 as it crosses the Grizzly Trail #7 and the Little Devils Tower Trail #4. The Norbeck Trail #3 heads S and the E and briefly parallels Hwy 87 about 4 mi to where it rejoins the CT near Iron Creek Horse Camp.

-From the Iron Creek Horse Camp, head S on the CT and cross Hwy 87, then continue S for about 5 mi (about 3 mi on a two track rd) to Hwy 16. Legion Lake Campground is about 0.5 mi E of where the trail crosses the road. Camp fee is $19. Pay Custer State Park use fee here as well. Registration may be needed. Phone number for SD state Park Campgrounds is 1-800-710-2267.

Section 7 – The Centennial Trail – Legion Lake to Wind Cave National Park (22 Mi)

-From Legion Lake, return to where the CT crosses Hwy 16 and continue S. In about 2 mi, there is a junction with the Mt Coolidge Trail. Stay on the CT for another 4 mi to French Creek Horse Camp. There is a primitive camp here if needed.

-The CT heads S through Custer State park for about 10 mi to the Highland Creek TH where it crosses Highland Creek and enters Wind Cave NP.

-From the Highland Creek TH, follow the CT through the park to the S terminus of the CT at Norbeck Lake TH where the CT crosses Hwy 87 at a hairpin turn. Head S on Hwy 87 for 0.7 mi to Hwy 385, then head S on 385 for about 0.4 mi and follow signs for the Elk Mountain Campground. ($18 high season) ($9 off season) ph 605-745-4600

Section 8 – Wind Cave National Park to Cottonwood Springs Campground (16 Mi)

-From Elk Mountain Campground, follow the park road and signage to the visitor center. Pay the park fee at the visitor center. From the VC, head S briefly and follow the park maintenance rd E and then cross Hwy 385 to where there is a TH directly across from the maintenance buildings. This is the Wind Cave Canyon Trail. Follow the Wind Cave Canyon Trail about 0.3 mi to Est Bison Flats Trail. Follow East Bison Flats Trail S about 2.5 mi to the TH at Hwy 385 and the park entrance sign.

-Follow Hwy 385 S about 5 mi into the town of Hot Springs. Option:  Hot Springs has all amenities and could be used as a rest stop or even a full day stop before continuing south. You could even do a longer day to Edgemont and skip Cottonwood Springs CG altogether.

-Head W on Battle Mountain Av for 3 blks, then S on River St for 0.5 mi to Minnekahta Av. Here you can pick up the Freedom Trail and head S for about 0.4 mi through town to University Av. Head W out of town on University Av which become Hwy 18. Head W on Hwy 18 about 4 mi to Memorial Rd. Head N on Memorial Rd about one mi, take a left at the fork, and then a right on Cottonwood Rd to Cottonwood Springs Campground. . Ph 605-745-5476 ($10).

Section 9 – Cottonwood Springs CG to Edgemont (23 Mi)

-From the CG, head S to Erskine Rd, then W on Erskine Rd for 3 mi to Valley Rd. Head S on Valley Rd for 0.6 mi to Hwy 18. Head W on Hwy 18 for 2.5 mi to junction with Mickelson Trail (MT) at the Minnekahta TH. The MT requires a daily pass ($4) or a yearly pass ($15). Passes can be purchased at the trailheads or in most of the trail towns. Head S on the MT about 14 mi into the town of Edgemont.

– To get to the actual southern terminus (0.0 mile marker), turn left at the Mickelson Trail sign, and cross the tracks, then turn immediately S on Old Hwy 18 and follow it for about 0.5 mi as it crosses the river and another set of tracks. Just after crossing the tracks, this road becomes A St. Follow A St one block to 2nd Ave, and head S on 2nd Ave six blocks to a city park and the 0.0 mile marker.

-Edgemont Campground is just a block south of the Mickelson 0.0 mile marker-ph. 605-662-7057 ($10). There are also a few hotels in town.

Section 10 – Edgemont to Oglala National Grassland Road 930 (26 Mi)

-From the 0.0 mile marker, head S on Hwy 471 for 8 mi to the town of Provo. Continue through Provo on 471 and head briefly E for about 0.5 mi. Head S on Edgemont Rd (dirt) for 11 mi to T junction with Ardmore Rd. Head W at T junction and stay on Edgemont Rd for 3 mi to a Y junction with Wyoming Rd. Head S at this junction and stay on Edgemont Rd. In about 1.5 mi, you will cross into Nebraska. Continue S on Edgemont Rd. About 2.5 mi S of the SD/NE border, look for FS rd 930 on the W side of the road.

– Head W on 930 and look for campsite options away from the road. This is a public land section of Oglala National Grassland.

Section 11 – Oglala NG Road 930 to Toadstool Geologic Park (25 Mi)

-From FS rd 930, head S on Edgemont Rd 3.6 mi to junction with Montrose Rd. Head E on Montrose Rd four mi to junction with Pants Butte Rd. At this junction, head N and stay on Montrose Rd. Montrose Rd then turns E for about 4 mi to Montrose church and Warbonnet Memorial. The memorial sits 0.1 mi away on a hilltop and can be accessed through the gate.

-From Montrose church, head S on Hat Creek Rd (it jogs briefly E) for 3.5 mi to junction with Orella Rd. Head E for 6 mi on Orella Rd and turn ESE on Road 918. Head SE on Road 918 for 1.4 mi to Great Plains Trail sign. Follow the 4’ brown posts 1.7 mi to Toadstool CG. There is a $5 camping fee and a $3 day use fee.

Section 12 – Toadstool to Crawford or Ft. Robinson SP (21-24 Mi)

-From the Toadstool CG, follow the 4’ brown posts along the 3 mile Bison Trail to Hudson Meng Bonebed visitor center. Follow the main road S about 0.7 mi to a junction with Sand Creek Rd. Head very briefly E, then turn S on Milo Rd for about 5.5 mi to Cottonwood Rd. Head briefly E on Cottonwood Rd and then head S on Rim Rock Rd. Follow Rim Rock Rd as it turns S and E for about 6 mi to junction with Moody Rd. Head E on Moody Rd for 2 mi. Head S on Dodd Rd for one mi. Dodd Rd turns E for one mi to near the RR tracks. Head S on Dodd Rd one mile at the tracks and into the town of Crawford. Crawford has basic amenities if needed. Pick up the White River Trail stays on NW side of town where it begins at the Crawford City Park. Options: You can stay in Crawford and camp at the city park on the NW corner of town. There are also hotels in town. You can also head to Ft. Robinson and camp there, but you will need to double back on the WRT back into Crawford to continue south.

-To get to Ft Robinson, follow the White River Trail as it hugs the W edge of town 3 mi to Fort Robinson State park. The campgrounds are located near the end of the WRT on the S side of Hwy 20. Ft. Robinson requires a day use pass for $6-$8 and camping fees are $10-$15. Reservations may be needed.

Section 13 – Crawford to Nebraska National Forest (12-16 Mi)

-From Crawford, head E on Annin St through town. Annin St becomes W Ash Rd at the E end of town. Follow W Ash Rd E for about 6 mi to where it turns S. Head S on W Ash Rd for about 4 mi to the West Ash TH of the Pine Ridge Trail. Options: There is a picnic site about 0.25 mi N of the West Ash TH and could be used as a campsite, or you can head E on the Pine Ridge Trail and look for camping options on forest service land. Most of the area between West Ash and East Ash is public except for a parcel of private land which is well marked.

Section 14 – Nebraska National Forest to Box Butte St. Rec. Area (17-23 Mi depending on where you camped)

-Follow the 4’ brown posts mostly E about 5.7 mi to the East Ash TH at East Ash Rd. Continue on the Pine Ridge Trail E on the E side of East Ash Rd about 2 mi and look for a windmill. At the windmill, head SSE on the two track road for about 0.4 mi, then leave the two track to avoid a parcel of private land and briefly head more SE for about0.2 mi and then S for about 0.2 mi to the junction with FS Rd 708. Head E on FS Rd 708 through the green gate and continue on the county road about 1.5 mi to Highland Cemetery.

-Head S at the cemetery on Highland Rd about 2.5 mi and continue on Highland Rd as it heads ESE for about 3.5 mi to the junction with Table Center Road. Head S on Table Center Rd about 6.5 mi to Box Butte SRA. Head W on River Rd one mi to Box Butte SRA. There is a CG at the SRA. Daily permits are $8, and tent campsite is $10. Depending on time of year, reservations may need to be made.

Section 15 – Box Butte SRA to Alliance (35 Mi) (Shorter ways possible by skipping Carhenge)

                -Return to Table Center Rd which becomes Rd 70 and head S for 10 mi to town of Hemingford. Hemingford has some amenities, and here is a small CG in Hemingford if needed-on Wyoming Av near where you come into town.  Otherwise, skirt Hemingford on the E side and head SE on Hwy 2 for 8 mi to junction with Jefferson Rd. Head E on Jefferson Rd for 6 mi to junction with Hwy 87. Head S on Hwy 87 for about 6 mi to Carhenge.

-Continue S on Hwy 87 to E 25th St. Head W on E 25th St one mi to Box Butte Av. Head S on Box Butte Av. Head S on Box Butte Av to 3rd St. Head W on W 3rd St about one mi to one of a two or three hotels in the area. There is also an RV campground 2 mi S on US 385-J &C Lawn Svcs and RV Park-2491 US 385  308-762-3860 ($?)

Section 16 – Alliance to Butte View CG at Lake Minatare SRA (38 Mi)

-Head N on Ramblin Rd to W 10th St. Head W on W 10th St which become Otoe Rd after you cross Hwy 385. Head W on Otoe Rd for 11 mi. Head S on Rd 72 for one mi. Head W on Perkins Rd for 8.5 mi. Head S on Rd 81 for one mi. Head W on Rock Rd for one mi. Head S on Rd 82 for 3 mi. Head W on Valley Rd for one mi. Head S on Rd 83 for two mi.

-Head W on Rd A/York Rd for 3.5 mi. Head SW and sometime S on Highland Rd for five mi to junction with County Rd E. Head W on Rd E for two mi to Stonegate Rd which is right at Butte View Campground.

-LMSRA has four campgrounds (Scout’s Rest, West Wind, South Gate, and Butte View). Head around the lake on Stonegate Rd to the other campgrounds. Park Fee is $8 and Camp Fee is $8.50. Depending on time of year, reservations may need to be made. After a very long day, Butte View CG is closest to Alliance.

Section 17 – Lake Minatare SRA to Scottsbluff (23 Mi)

-Head around Lake Minatare on Stonegate Rd to Lake Minatare Rd which is on the W side of the lake. Head W on Lake Minatare Rd for six mi to Sugar Factory Rd/23. Head S on 23 three mi to 42nd St. Head W on 42nd St one mi to 5th Ave. Head S on 5th Av to 27th St. Head W on 27th to Broadway. Head S on Broadway to Beltline Hwy.

-Broadway becomes 10th St on the S side of the Hwy. Cross the river at 10th St and pick up the Monument Valley Pathway on the other side. Follow the MVP past Terry Lake and the ballfield to Country Club Rd. Head W on Country Club Rd about 1 mi to dead end. Head S along the perimeter of Scottsbluff National Monument to the Prairie View Trail and take the Prairie View Trail to the visitor center. From the VC, climb to the summit of Scottsbluff via the Saddle Rock Trail and return the same way.

Camping near Scottsbluff – Robidoux RV CG 585 Five Rocks Rd, Gering, NE  308-436-2046 ($12). Riverside Municipal CG 1514 Beltline Hwy W, Scottsbluff, NE  308-632-6342 ($10) This CG can be reached by way of the MVP. Just head W on the N side of the river after crossing the river at 10th St. There are also hotels in Gering and SB.

Western NE Regional Airport has daily flights from Denver International (DIA). There is also a daily shuttle from DIA as well as bus service via Greyhound to points along I-80. Lyft and Uber operate in Scottsbluff.

 

 

 

 

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The Data Books are Here! NOBO Hike

We have completed the first edition of the Data Books for our Pilot Trail! The Pilot Trail is from Scottsbluff National Monument to Bear Butte State Park, or the other way around, depending on where you start.

The Data Books are not complete guide books, but are meant to provide enough of a framework in terms of information about the route that a motivated person could attempt either a hike or a bike of the GPT Pilot Trail.

The Data Books are now posted on our website, but I will publish them here as well, one at a time, starting with Northbound Hike (or NOBO Hike). It doesn’t make for scintillating reading, but would be indispensible out on the trail.

If you decide to tackle the Pilot Trail in either direction by foot or by bike, please join our Facebook Group (Great Plains Trail Alliance Group), and tell us about your plans/experiences.

Data Book (1.0) – 2019 – Northbound HIKE

Great Plains Trail – Pilot Trail – Scottsbluff Nat. Mon. to Bear Butte SP (approx. 350 Miles)

General/Safety Notes: This book is intended to use for route information. It is not a full guide book. This book is also subject to errors and omissions. Please be aware of hazards along the way including, but not limited to: fatigue, weather conditions, water supply, food supply, wildlife, insects, and vehicle traffic. Although the Pilot Trail is possible as a self-supported hike, it is always a good idea to have a support network in place if needed. Be sure to tell people when and where you’re going and check in with them on a regular basis. You may want to consider placing water caches along the route in sections where it is a long way between re-supply points. You may also want to consider assembling and mailing care packages via general delivery to post offices in towns along the route.

Western NE Regional Airport has daily flights from Denver International (DIA). There is also a daily shuttle from DIA as well as bus service via Greyhound to points along I-80. Lyft and Uber operate in Scottsbluff.

Camping near SB – Robidoux RV CG 585 Five Rocks Rd, Gering, NE  308-436-2046 ($12) or Riverside Municipal CG 1514 Beltline Hwy W, Scottsbluff, NE  308-632-6342 ($10). Gering also has a few hotels to choose from.

Section 1 – Scottsbluff National Mon. (SBNM) to Butte View CG-Lake Minatare State Rec. Area (LMSRA) (22.5 Mi)

-Begin at SBNM Visitor Center (VC), and climb to the summit of Scottsbluff via the Saddle Rock Trail and return the same way. From the VC, follow the Prairie View Trail along the perimeter of the park to Country Club Rd and head E until you cross the railroad tracks. Just after the tracks, pick up Monument Valley Pathway (MVP) and follow it N and E around the ball field, Terry Lake, and cross the river at 10th street. After crossing the river, you can return to Riverside CG via the MVP if needed.

-From 10th street/Beltline intersection, head N on Broadway to 27th St. Head E on 27th St to 5th Av. Head N on 5th Av to 42nd St. Head E on 42nd St one mi to Sugar Factory Rd/23. Head N on 23 three mi to Lake Minatare Rd/Co Rd F. Head E on Lake Minatare for 6 mi to LMSRA.

-LMSRA has four campgrounds (Scout’s Rest, West Wind, South Gate, and Butte View). Head N or S around the lake on Stonegate Rd. Heading N will be West Wind, Scout’s Rest, then Butte View. Heading S will be South Gate, then Butte View. Park Fee is $8 and Camp Fee is $8.50. Depending on time of year, reservations may need to be made. Butte View CG gets you a little closer to Alliance.

Section 2 – Butte View CG-LMSRA to Alliance (38 Mi)

                –From Butte View CG head E on Stonegate Rd for 200ft, then continue E on Co Rd E two mi to N Highland Rd. Head N on N Highland Rd which turns NE after one mi. After four mi, Head E on Rd A/York Rd for 3.5 mi.

-Head N on Rd 83 for two mi. Head E on Valley Rd for one mi. Head N on Rd. 82 for three mi. Head E on Rock Rd for one mi. Head N on Rd 81 (winds N and E) for one mi. Head E on Perkins Rd for 8.5 mi. Head N on Rd 72 for one mi. Head E on Otoe Rd for 11 mi to Alliance.

-There are two or three hotel options about one mi S on W 3rd St. There is also an RV campground 2 mi S on US 385-J &C Lawn Svcs and RV Park-2491 US 385  Ph. 308-762-3860 ($?)

Section 3 – Alliance to Box Butte Reservoir State Rec. Area (35 Mi) (Shorter ways possible by skipping Carhenge)

-From hotels on 3rd St, head E on 3rd St to downtown Alliance. Head N on Box Butte Av to 25th St. Head E on 25th St for one mi to Hwy 87. Head N on Hwy 87 for 7 mi to Jefferson Rd (Carhenge is about one mi along this rd). Head W on Jefferson Rd for 6 mi-past US 385- to Hwy 2. Head NNW on Hwy 2 for 8 mi to the town of Hemingford.

– There is a small CG in Hemingford if needed-on Wyoming Av near where you come into town. Otherwise, go W on Niobrara Av for two blks then turn N on Box Butte Av which becomes Rd 70. Stay on Rd 70 (which becomes Table Center Rd) for 10 mi. Head W on River Rd one mi to Box Butte SRA. There is a CG at the SRA. Daily permits are $8, and tent campsite is $10. Depending on time of year, reservations may need to be made.

Section 4 – Box Butte SRA to Nebraska National Forest (17-23 Mi depending on where you camp)

                -Return to Table Center Rd and head N for 6.5 mi to Highland Rd. Head WNW on Highland Rd for 3.5 mi until Highland Rd turns due N. Head N for 2.5 mi to T junction (at Highland Cemetery).

-Head W at cemetery on unmaintained county rd for about 1.5 mi. At a green steel gate is Forest Service  Rd 708. Where 708 bends N and then W, the GPT continues N and then NNW to avoid a parcel of private land. Continue NNW for about 0.4 mi to connect with a two-track rd. Continue NNW on two-track for another 0.4 mi to connect with Pine Ridge Trail near the windmill.

-Head W on Pine Ridge Trail for about 2 mi to junction with East Ash Rd. Pine Ridge Trail continues (look for brown 4’ high posts) between East Ash and West Ash rds for about 5.7 mi. Camping is permitted on NF public land, but not the private easement the trail passes through. Look for signs and gates that denote this section. There is also a picnic area 0.25 mi north of the West Ash trailhead that might provide a good campsite.

Section 5 – Nebraska National Forest to Crawford or Ft. Robinson State Park (12-16 Mi)

                -Head N on West Ash Creek Rd for about 4 mi where the road turns W. Continue W on West Ash Rd about 6 mi into the town of Crawford. West Ash becomes Annin St in town. Head W on Annin St about one mi to 1st St. Head S three blks to Reed St. Head W at the community Center and ball field to access the White River Trail. Head W on the WRT about three miles to Ft. Robinson State Park. Options: You can stay in Crawford and camp at the city park on the NW corner of town. There are also hotels in town. You can also head to Ft. Robinson and camp there, but the route for the GPT is not complete through Ft. Robinson, and you will need to double back on the WRT back into Crawford to continue north. Ft. Robinson requires a day use pass for $6-$8 and camping fees are $10-$15. Reservations may be needed.

Section 6 – Crawford to Toadstool Geologic Park (21 Mi)

-From city park at NW corner of town and the E trailhead for the White River Trail, head north on 1st St to the edge of town, then head NNW at the Stockyard to Dodd Rd.

-Head N on Dodd Rd for one mi, then W for one mi at the railroad tracks. Turn N for one mi to Moody Rd. Head W on Moody Rd for two mi. Turn N at Rim Rock Rd for one mi, then turn W and follow Rim Rock Rd as it winds N and W for about 5 mi to Cottonwood Rd. Head W on Cottonwood Rd for only about 0.2 mi then turn N on Milo Rd.  Head N on Milo Rd for about 6 mi to Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed research center. The three-mile Bison Trail to Toadstool starts at the visitor center. Head N on Bison Trail following 4’ brown posts to Toadstool Campground. There is a $5 camping fee and a $3 day use fee.

Section 7 – Toadstool Geologic Park to Oglala National Grassland Road 930 (25 Mi)

-From campground head NW along main gravel trail about 0.1 mi to forest service sign marking Great Plains Trail. Follow the 4’ brown posts N and NW 1.5 mi to 918 Rd. When you come to 918 Rd, you will see another Great Plains Trail sign. Follow 918 Rd NNW 1.4 mi to Orella Rd. Head W on Orella Rd about 6 mi to T junction at Hat Creek Rd. Head N on Hat Creek Rd (it jogs briefly W) for 3.5 mi to Montrose church and Warbonnet Memorial. The memorial sits 0.1 mi away on a hilltop and can be accessed through the gate.

-Head W on Montrose Rd for 4 mi (it jogs briefly S) to junction with Pants Butte Rd. Pants Butte Rd continues due S, but stay heading W on Montrose Rd for 4 mi to T junction with Edgemont Rd. Head N on Edgemont Rd for about 3.6 mi and look for the forest service road marker 930 on the west side of the road. Head W on 930 and look for campsite options away from the road. This is a public land section of Oglala National Grassland.

Section 8 – Oglala NG Road 930 to Edgemont, South Dakota (26 Mi)

                -Head N on Edgemont Rd (road crosses into South Dakota after about 2.5 mi). About 1.5 mi after you enter SD, road bears east for about 3 mi before turning due N again at a junction with Ardmore Rd. Continue N on Edgemont Rd for 11 mi to T junction with 471 (paved road).

-Head W on 471 into town of Provo, then continue N on 471 eight mi to Edgemont and the Mickelson Trail 0.0 mi marker at city park at S end of 2nd Av. Edgemont Campground is just a block south of the Mickelson 0.0 mile marker-ph. 605-662-7057 ($10). There are also hotels in town.

Section 9 – Edgemont to Cottonwood Springs Campground (23 Mi)

                -From Mickelson Trail (MT) 0.0 marker, purchase a daily pass for the MT ($4). Head N on 2nd Av six blks to junction with A St. Head E on A St and follow it across the RR tracks and across the river where it becomes Old Hwy 18. In 0.5 mi veer left and cross another set of tracks. Just after crossing the tracks, pick up the MT which parallels the tracks and the hwy and heads NE. After about 2.5 mi, the MT veers off and hooks E and then SE before heading back N. Stay on the MT until it crosses Hwy 18 at mile marker 16.2.

-Head E on Hwy 18 for 2.5 mi to junction with Valley Rd. Head N on valley Rd for 0.6 mi to junction with Erskine Rd. Head E on Erskine Rd for 3 mi to Cottonwood Rd. Head N on Cottonwood Rd for 0.5 mi to Cottonwood Springs Campground. Ph 605-745-5476 ($10).

Section 10 – Cottonwood Springs Campground to Wind Cave National Park (16 Mi)

-From the campground, return to Erskine Rd and S about one mi to junction with Hwy 18. Head E on Hwy 18 about 4 mi into the town of Hot Springs. Option: Hot Springs has all amenities and could be used as a rest stop before continuing north.

-Follow Hwy 18 which becomes University Av in town take the Freedom Trail N from University Av on the W side of the Fall River. Follow the Freedom Trail N through town for about 0.4 mi to Minnekahta St. Cross back over the river and cross River St and head N 0.5 mi to Battle Mountain Av. Head E on Battle Mountain Av for 3 blks where it turns N and becomes Sherman St as well as Hwy 385.

-Head N out of town on Hwy 385 for about 5 mi to the entrance sign to Wind Cave NP. The pullout at the entrance sign is the trailhead for East Bison Flats Trail. Follow East Bison Flats Trail about 2.5 mi to the junction with Wind Cave Canyon Trail. Head E on Wind Cave Canyon Trail for 0.3 mi to Hwy 385. Cross the hwy and head for the buildings and service road which will lead to the visitor center. Pay park fee at VC. Also obtain a backcountry camping permit if you plan to camp in the backcountry of the park. Follow the park road north for about 0.5 mi and then follow signs for Elk Mountain Campground. ($18 high season) ($9 off season) ph 605-745-4600

Section 11 – The Centennial Trail – Wind Cave National Park to Legion Lake Campground (22 Mi)

-From campground head N on park road to main hwy 385. Head N on 385 for 0.4 mi to junction with 87. Head N on 87 for 0.7 mi to hairpin turn. At this turn is the trailhead for the Centennial Trail (CT). Note: This is the S terminus of the 111 mi CT. The N terminus is at Bear Butte SP. Follow the brown 4’ fiberglass signs with the number 89 on them. They denote the CT when it is not obvious. The CT is primitive in spots and route finding can be difficult. Have a good topo map and a compass for this trail.  There are also a network of other trails in many areas. Unless otherwise noted, continue to follow the 89 markers.

-The first section is 6.2 mi to Highland Creek TH where it crosses Highland Creek Rd. From the Norbeck Lake Trailhead, follow the 89 signs for about 1.5 miles and cross the bridge. Follow signs for trail number 6 (Centennial Trailhead/Custer State Park) until it again becomes 89. Continue N to intersection with Highland Ridge Rd and CT trailhead (TH).

-From the Highland Creek TH, cross the road and enter Custer State Park (CSP). Head E and cross Highland Creek. Follow two-track for about 2 mi until it crosses a gate and becomes a single track again. Cross Four Mile Rd at about the four mile mark from the TH. The trail then roughly parallels the Wildlife Loop Rd before crossing it a few miles later. After 1.2 mi, the trail parallels Lame Johnny Rd which leads to the next TH at French Creek Horse Camp. This campground is designed for campers with horse trailers. There is a primitive campsite off West French Creek Trail a bit further up the CT

-From French Creek TH, the trail follows French Creek for a while before continuing N. Follow West French Creek Trail to Primitive camp if needed. After about four mi, there is a trail junction for Mt. Coolidge. The CT continues N to Legion Lake and crosses Hwy 16. Legion Lake Campground is about 0.5 mi E of where the trail crosses the road. Camp fee is $19. Pay Custer State Park use fee here as well. Registration may be needed. Phone number for SD state Park Campgrounds is 1-800-710-2267.

Section 12 – The Centennial Trail = Legion Lake to Horsethief Lake Campground (21 Mi)

                -From Legion Lake CG, return to CT TH at Hwy 16. Follow the 89 signs N on a two-track road for about 3 mi, then the trail becomes single track again. The trail merges briefly with American center Rd before crossing Hwy 87. Continue N to Iron Creek Horse Campground.

Note: At this point, the Great Plains Trail leaves the CT briefly in order to connect with the Harney Peak Trail and the South Dakota state high point. At the far end of the Iron Creek Horse Camp, look for the Norbeck TH #3 and follow it mostly W. Note: Please register (free) at the Wilderness sign posts. After about 1.5 mi, the trail briefly parallels Hwy 87 and connects to another TH, the trail then heads more N and NW. After about 2 mi, there is a junction with Trail #4 to Little Devils Tower, stay on the Norbeck Trail #3. In 0.5 mi, there is a junction with Grizzly Trail #7, stay on Norbeck Trail #3.

-In 0.5 mi, there is a junction with Harney peak Trail #9, follow #9 to signage to Harney Peak. The actual summit is a brief Spur Trail W of the main #9 trail. After the summit, return to #9 and head N two mi to Willow Creek Rushmore #5. Head E on Willow Creek Trail for one mi to junction with CT. Head E on CT for 0.5 mi to Hwy 244. Head E on 244 0.1 mi to Horsethief Lake Campground ($26).

-This campground is popular in the summer but might be a good option in the off season. There is primitive camping allowed anywhere in the Black Elk Wilderness (and in the National Forest N of 244) except within 0.25 mi of the Harney Peak Trail (no fires allowed).

Section 13 – The Centennial Trail – Horsethief Lake Campground to North Cove Campground Area (13 Mi)

-From Horsethief Lake CG, return to Hwy 244 and the Big Pine TH of the CT. Follow it N 3.3 mi as it crosses and parallels several small roads before crossing under Hwy 16 to Samelius TH.

-From Samelius TH, follow the trail N and E around Samelius Peak. The trail winds through rugged terrain about 6 mi before dropping to the Sheridan Lake area and the SE corner of the lake at the Calumet TH.

-From the Calumet TH, the CT crosses the dam on the E side of the lake, and then turns N and NE to Dakota Point TH where it crosses Dakota Point Rd (FS 434). Follow the trail another 0.5 mi and just before the trail crosses the paved Sheridan Lake Rd, head S 0.1 mi to the North Cove Campground area. This will be busy in high season, but should be quiet in the off season.

Section 14 – The Centennial Trail – North Cove CG to Merritt, South Dakota (22 Mi)

-From North Cove CG, return to CT where it crosses Sheridan Lake Rd and head NW on two-track rd. This part of the CT goes back and forth between two-track rds and single-track trail. Keep a sharp eye out for trail markers. After 6 mi, trail comes to Brush Creek TH where it crosses Brush Creek Rd.

-From Brush Creek TH, follow the road NE for about 0.5 mi. Head back on the trail and cross several streams over the next 4 mi to Rapid Creek TH near Pactola Reservoir. After a short distance, the CT parallels Hwy 385 for about one mi. Note: There is a visitor center about 0.7 mi S on Hwy 385, which may be needed for rest/information.

-CT crosses 385 at the Pactola Lake boat launch, about 1.0 mi N of the visitor Center. Continue on the W side of the Hwy N and NE about 4 mi to the Deer Creek TH, and junction with Silver City Rd.

-About two mi N of Silver City Rd, the CT crosses Hwy 385 again. At this point, you can continue on CT to Pilot Knob TH, and then back W on Merritt Estes Rd to the hamlet of Merritt, or just head N on 385 about one mi to the town of Merritt. Note: Merritt has two restaurants, a general store, and an RV campground. Primitive camping would also be available in the national forest.

Section 15 – The Centennial Trail – Merritt, South Dakota to Dalton Lake (16 Mi)

                -Note: Be aware that this section allows for motorized use. From Merritt, head E on Merritt Estes Rd  about one mi to Pilot Knob TH. Head N on CT for about 6 mi as it crosses and occasionally follows FS rds before crossing Boxelder Creek and arriving at Boxelder Creek TH. The small hamlet of Nemo is just to the E. The actual CT skirts the town of Nemo, but the thru hiker will want to re-supply in town. Also, the signage for the CT is trickier here due to the motorized use of the trail.

-From Nemo, head N about 0.5 mi to where the CT crosses Nemo Rd, and then follows it for a short distance before turning E to parallel Vanocker Canyon Rd a short distance, then turns E and then N. The CT follows a dirt road E for about 1.5 mi before dropping to Dalton Lake and Dalton Lake TH. There is a small campground at Dalton Lake ($18).

Section 16 – The Centennial Trail – Dalton Lake to Alkali Creek Campground (25 Mi)

-From Dalton Lake, follow the CT N to where it follows a two track road for 0.3 mi about 1.7 mi from the lake. The trail picks up again and heads N. Follow the CT about 10 mi to Elk Creek TH.

-From Elk Creek TH, continue N on the CT for 10 mi where it crosses the tracks, follows the exit road, and  passes under I-90 and on to Alkali Creek TH. There is a small campground just past the trailhead to the E. ($8)

Section 17 – The Centennial Trail – Alkali Creek to Bear Butte State Park (20 Mi – Includes round trip to Bear Butte summit)

                -From Alkali Creek TH, follow CT W and the N for over the Dakota Hogback Ridge, and then down to Fort Meade TH – about 6 mi. From Ft. Meade TH, follow gravel road toward Hwy 79 and cross 79. Note: At this point, the town of Sturgis is just to the W if needed. Follow the trail N and NE about 4 mi toward Bear Butte Lake. The CT skirts the S side of the lake before Hwy 79. There is a CG on the north side of the lake. Head E and cross Hwy 79 to the park entrance. Follow the park road briefly E until you see a gate with a trail heading N. Follow this trail N and then E about 1.5 mi to the visitor center. From the VC, there is a 2.7 mi hiking trail to the top of Bear Butte. Return the same way to the campground at the lake, or Sturgis.

Public transportation is limited in Sturgis. Lyft rideshare operates in Rapid City which is a 30 min drive from Sturgis. Rapid City Regional Airport has daily flights to Denver, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis.

 

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GPT – Photo of the Week

Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska

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GPT Photo of the Week

The White River Trail – Nebraska

 

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