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.