Riding the Black Hills: South Dakota’s Premier Motorcycle Roads

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Mr. Chase Manhattan

Get ready to rev your engines and hit the open road, because South Dakota’s Black Hills have some of the best motorcycle roads in the country. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, these winding routes will take you on an unforgettable journey through stunning landscapes and iconic landmarks.

The Black Hills BDR-X is a 355-mile loop that showcases the diverse beauty of South Dakota. You’ll ride through wide-open prairies, dense pine forests, and along scenic mountain roads. As you navigate the twisting turns, you’ll pass by famous attractions like Mount Rushmore and experience the thrill of conquering the challenging Needles Highway.

But the Black Hills BDR-X is more than just a road trip. It’s an adventure that will take you through historical towns, past towering waterfalls, and into the heart of nature. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to stop and explore landmarks like the Cement Ridge Lookout Tower and the Custer Wildlife Loop.

So grab your helmet, hop on your bike, and get ready for an incredible journey through the Black Hills of South Dakota. This is the ultimate motorcycle road trip you won’t want to miss.

Spearfish to Hill City – 109 Miles

Embark on an unforgettable motorcycle journey from Spearfish to Hill City, covering a scenic 109-mile route through the heart of the Black Hills. This section of the Black Hills BDR-X is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and thrilling riding experiences.

The highlight of this section is undoubtedly Spearfish Canyon Road, a winding and captivating route that follows alongside a tranquil creek. As you navigate the twists and turns, be prepared to be mesmerized by the towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls that adorn the canyon. The beauty of this road is particularly enhanced during the fall season when the foliage transforms into a vibrant display of colors.

While in Spearfish Canyon, make a pit stop at the historic Spearfish Canyon Lodge for some fuel and a tasty meal. This renowned lodge was even featured in the final scene of the Academy Award-winning film “Dances With Wolves,” adding a touch of cinematic history to your journey.

Continuing your ride, you’ll immerse yourself in the enchanting pine forests that characterize the Black Hills region. Take a moment to appreciate the tranquility of your surroundings and bask in the refreshing scent of the trees as you traverse the captivating landscape.

As you venture further, make sure to visit the Cement Ridge lookout tower, offering panoramic views of the Black Hills. Capture the awe-inspiring vistas and let the beauty of the landscape leave an indelible mark on your memory.

Other notable landmarks along this section of the route include the Trailshead Lodge, where you can take a break and recharge, Castle Creek campground for a peaceful overnight stay, the Rochford Mall for a taste of nostalgic charm, and the ghost town of Mystic, which will transport you back in time.

Your thrilling adventure through the Black Hills continues until you finally arrive in the charming town of Hill City. This picturesque destination is a perfect place to rest, reflect, and explore further attractions such as the historic Main Street and nearby art galleries.

Prepare to be captivated by the majestic beauty of the Spearfish to Hill City section of the Black Hills BDR-X. Every twist and turn will reward you with awe-inspiring views and unforgettable memories, making this motorcycle route a must-ride for any adventurous soul.

Hill City to Keystone – 153 Miles

Starting in Hill City, this section of the Black Hills BDR-X takes you on a scenic journey through another iconic South Dakota town. As you set out from Hill City, you’ll have the option to take the challenging Harder track up Bear Mountain or stick to the main route for an easier bypass.

As you continue your ride, prepare to indulge in the beauty of the Black Hills. The route treats you to a mix of fast gravel roads and remote sections of two-track, offering a thrilling riding experience. Along the way, you’ll encounter breathtaking views of the area’s striking landscapes.

One of the highlights of this section is the opportunity to explore the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. This scenic stretch allows you to witness the majestic wildlife that call the park home, including bison, burros, and bighorn sheep. It’s an experience that truly connects you with the natural wonders of South Dakota.

  • Ride along fast gravel roads
  • Explore remote sections of two-track
  • Spot bison, burros, and bighorn sheep at Custer State Park

Another must-see attraction on this route is the Needles Highway. As you navigate its winding curves, be prepared to be awestruck by the magnificent granite spires that give the highway its name. This iconic road takes you through tunnels and offers panoramic views of the Black Hills, providing a truly unforgettable riding experience.

No ride through the Black Hills would be complete without visiting the world-famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial. A symbol of American pride and ingenuity, this iconic landmark pays tribute to four of America’s greatest presidents. Take a moment to marvel at this massive sculpture and reflect on the nation’s history.

Your journey on Section 3 culminates with the grand finale on Iron Mountain Road. The twists and turns of this scenic byway offer stunning vistas of the surrounding area. As you take on the challenging curves, be sure to soak in the breathtaking views of the Black Hills before reaching your destination in Keystone.

Whether you choose to challenge yourself on the Harder track or stick to the main route, Section 3 of the Black Hills BDR-X promises an exhilarating ride filled with stunning scenery and iconic landmarks. From the wildlife encounters in Custer State Park to the granite spires of the Needles Highway, this section is guaranteed to leave you with lasting memories of your Black Hills adventure.

Lodging, Food, Fuel, and Dealerships

lodging, food, fuel, and dealerships

As you embark on your Black Hills BDR-X adventure, you’ll find a wide range of options for lodging, food, fuel, and even motorcycle dealerships along the route. Whether you prefer a rustic camping experience or the comfort of a hotel or lodge, there are plenty of accommodations to suit your needs in towns like Spearfish, Hill City, and Keystone.

If you’re a fan of camping, you’ll be pleased to know that there are campgrounds available along the route. Picture yourself nestled amongst the stunning landscapes of the Black Hills, enjoying the peace and serenity of nature. And if you’re craving a hot shower and a cozy bed, hotels and lodges await you, providing a comfortable retreat after a long day of riding.

Of course, fueling up and replenishing your energy is essential for an epic journey. Many establishments along the route offer food and fuel options, ensuring that you have everything you need to refuel your body and your motorcycle. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty meal or a quick bite to eat, you’ll find a variety of restaurants and cafes along the way.

Should you encounter any issues with your motorcycle, worry not. The Black Hills region is home to several reputable motorcycle dealerships where you can find assistance, repairs, or maintenance should the need arise. These dealerships are staffed by knowledgeable professionals who understand the unique needs of riders exploring the Black Hills.

“The freedom of the open road, the thrill of the ride, and the satisfaction of discovering new places. That’s what motorcycling in the Black Hills is all about. And with a wide range of lodging options, delicious food choices, and motorcycle dealerships offering support along the way, you can fully immerse yourself in this incredible adventure.”

How to Use GPS Tracks

Riders on the Black Hills BDR-X can make use of GPS tracks to ensure seamless navigation throughout the route. These tracks, which can be downloaded, provide riders with precise directions to follow, preventing them from getting lost and ensuring a smooth and enjoyable riding experience.

To use GPS tracks, riders have two options: they can either utilize a dedicated GPS unit or use a navigation app on their smartphone. Both methods offer reliable and accurate navigation, allowing riders to stay on the designated route.

For those using a GPS unit, instructions on how to download and import the GPS tracks will be provided. Once the tracks are loaded onto the GPS unit, riders can simply follow the on-screen directions, allowing the device to guide them through each turn and waypoint. It’s a straightforward and hassle-free way to navigate the Black Hills BDR-X.

If riders prefer to use a navigation app on their smartphone, they can download the GPS tracks and import them into the app. Whether it’s Google Maps, Waze, or any other navigation app, the process is typically simple and intuitive. Once the tracks are imported, riders can rely on their smartphone to provide them with turn-by-turn directions throughout the entire route.

By using GPS tracks, riders can focus on the road and the breathtaking scenery of the Black Hills instead of worrying about navigation. Whether they choose a dedicated GPS unit or a smartphone app, having GPS tracks at their disposal ensures that they won’t miss any of the stunning sights and points of interest along the way.

“GPS tracks are a game-changer for motorcyclists exploring the Black Hills BDR-X. They provide precise directions, giving riders the confidence to focus on enjoying the ride. It’s like having a personal guide leading you through the beautiful landscapes and historic landmarks of South Dakota.”

Benefits of Using GPS Tracks:

  • Accurate and reliable navigation
  • Prevents getting lost
  • Easy to follow turn-by-turn directions
  • Allows riders to focus on the ride and scenery
  • Enhances the overall riding experience

Packing List

packing list for the Black Hills BDR-X

Riders embarking on the Black Hills BDR-X should prepare a comprehensive packing list to ensure they have all the essentials for their journey. It’s important to be well-prepared to ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience.

Riding Gear

  • Helmet: Protect your head with a DOT-approved helmet.
  • Boots: Wear sturdy, protective boots that provide ankle support.
  • Goggles: Shield your eyes from dust and debris.
  • Gloves: Keep your hands protected and improve grip.
  • Jacket and Pants: Wear durable, weather-resistant gear for comfort and safety.

Navigation and Communication

  • Map Holder or Case: Keep your maps easily accessible and protected from the elements.
  • GPS Unit: Use a GPS device or smartphone app for navigation.
  • Cell Phone: Stay connected and have a means of emergency communication.

Camping and Adventure Gear

  • Camera: Capture the scenic beauty of the Black Hills.
  • Camping Gear: Pack a tent, sleeping bag, camping stove, and other essentials for overnight stays.
  • Tools: Bring basic tools for any necessary repairs or adjustments.
  • First Aid Kit: Be prepared for minor injuries and emergencies.

Personal Supplies

  • Toiletries: Bring travel-sized toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

A comprehensive packing list ensures you have all the necessary gear and supplies for a successful Black Hills BDR-X adventure. With the right equipment and preparation, you can fully enjoy the stunning landscapes and thrilling riding experience the Black Hills have to offer.

Route Updates

road conditions

Riders should stay updated on any route changes or updates before setting out on the Black Hills BDR-X. Road conditions and closures can occur due to factors such as weather, road damage, or logging. Staying informed about any changes to the route will help you navigate effectively and plan your journey accordingly. Regularly checking for route updates will ensure a smooth and enjoyable riding experience.

Keep an eye out for any notifications or alerts regarding route updates from official sources. This could include the Black Hills BDR-X website, local tourism boards, or motorcycle enthusiasts’ forums. By staying informed, you can adjust your itinerary if needed and avoid any unexpected roadblocks or detours.

Remember, road conditions in the Black Hills can change quickly, especially during inclement weather or heavy tourist seasons. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and inquire about any recent developments that may affect your ride.

Weather and Road Damage

One of the primary reasons for route updates is the unpredictable South Dakota weather. Heavy rainfall, thunderstorms, or even snowstorms can result in flooded or washed-out roads. In such cases, it’s crucial to be aware of any closures or alternative routes that have been designated.

“Due to recent heavy rains, some roads in the area have been temporarily closed for repairs. Please consult the Black Hills BDR-X website for updates and alternative routes.”

Construction or maintenance work on roads can also lead to temporary closures or delays. Road crews often prioritize safety and may implement detours or restrictions to ensure the smooth flow of traffic. Stay informed about any ongoing projects along the Black Hills BDR-X to avoid any surprises during your ride.

Logging Operations

The Black Hills region is known for its vibrant timber industry, and logging operations can sometimes impact road access. Certain sections of the Black Hills BDR-X may be affected by active logging, requiring riders to take alternative routes or exercise caution. Stay updated on any logging activities that may affect your ride and plan your journey accordingly.

Other Sources for Route Updates

Aside from official sources, local motorcycle shops, dealerships, or rental agencies can also provide valuable information about route updates. These establishments have first-hand knowledge of the local riding conditions and can offer advice based on current road conditions.

While it’s essential to stay informed about route updates, it’s equally important to exercise caution while riding. Always adhere to traffic laws, ride defensively, and be prepared for unexpected changes in road conditions. By staying updated and riding responsibly, you can make the most of your Black Hills BDR-X adventure.

About the Dakota 600

Dakota 600

The Dakota 600 is an off-road event that brings together riders in support of trail development in the Black Hills and other western mountain states. This fundraising motorcycle trail ride offers participants the opportunity to explore diverse trails and create lasting riding memories while contributing to the growth and enhancement of off-road experiences.

The Dakota 600 welcomes riders of all skill levels, providing a range of riding experiences that cater to single track enthusiasts, dual sport riders, and adventure seekers alike. Whether you’re a seasoned off-roader or new to the trail, this event offers the chance to challenge yourself, connect with fellow riders, and support the ongoing development of high-quality motorcycle trails.

“The Dakota 600 is not just an event, it’s a movement. It’s about coming together as a community and showing our dedication to trail development. By participating in this off-road ride, you’re not only enjoying the thrill of the journey, but you’re also contributing to the future of the sport we love.”

You’ll have the chance to explore the natural beauty of the Black Hills and other stunning mountain landscapes while supporting the expansion of off-road trail networks. From exhilarating rides through challenging terrain to scenic routes that showcase the region’s breathtaking views, the Dakota 600 is an unforgettable off-road adventure.

Join us and be part of the journey towards the development and preservation of exceptional off-road trail experiences in the Black Hills and beyond.

Trail Map and Camping Options

Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest is a haven for off-road enthusiasts, with its extensive network of ATV, 4×4, and motorcycle trails. Whether you’re seeking a thrilling adventure or a peaceful escape into nature, the forest has something for everyone. Deep woods, open meadows, and stunning vista points await riders, providing breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.

While exploring the trails, camping is an excellent option for immersing yourself fully in the natural beauty of the Black Hills. Whether you prefer primitive camping or RV camping, there are various options available to suit your needs.

For those seeking a rustic experience, popular camping choices include Roubaix Lake, Dalton Lake, and Boxelder Forks. These campgrounds offer a serene environment surrounded by nature, perfect for unwinding after a day of thrilling rides.

If you prefer a more convenient camping setup, there are also RV campsites available in the area. These sites provide amenities such as power hookups and convenient access to facilities.

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable ride, it is essential to have a trail map. A trail map not only helps you navigate the vast network of trails but also allows you to plan your route efficiently. Trail maps can be obtained online or at the Black Hills National Forest Ranger Station.

“The trail map is your guide to the adventure that awaits. It helps you uncover hidden gems, plan your route, and make the most of your time in the Black Hills National Forest.”

Before embarking on your journey, don’t forget that each rider is required to have a permit. These permits help preserve the integrity of the trails and ensure a sustainable experience for all. Make sure to obtain the necessary permits and display them as required.

Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a novice looking to experience the thrill of off-road exploration, planning a trip to the Black Hills National Forest is an adventure you won’t soon forget. Consider the camping options, obtain the required permits, and don’t forget to bring your trail map – let the journey begin!

Difficulty Ratings and Backcountry Discovery Routes

The Black Hills BDR-X and other Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) offer a thrilling off-road motorcycle adventure through diverse terrains in South Dakota. The difficulty of these routes can vary depending on various factors such as weather conditions, road damage, and your own skills and bike setup. While official difficulty ratings are not provided, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific challenges and conditions of each route before embarking on your adventure. Let’s explore the existing Backcountry Discovery Routes ranked from most challenging to easiest:

  1. CABDR-South
  2. UTBDR
  3. CODBR
  4. COBDR
  5. WABDR
  6. IDBDR
  7. AZBDR
  8. NMBDR
  9. NVBDR
  10. WV-MBDR
  11. LABDR
  12. WABDR
  13. MABDR

As you can see, the CABDR-South is considered the most challenging route, while the MABDR is considered the easiest. Each route presents unique obstacles and scenic highlights, providing riders with a range of experiences. By understanding the difficulty ratings and preparing accordingly, you can make the most of your Black Hills BDR-X journey.

Bill Hearne: Route Architect Spotlight

Bill Hearne is not just an avid rider but also a trail advocate who has made significant contributions to motorcycling in the Black Hills region. As the route architect of the Black Hills BDR-X, his expertise and passion have shaped this popular motorcycle route into what it is today.

During his career, Bill Hearne worked tirelessly to improve the motorcycling experience in the Black Hills. He collaborated closely with highway departments to ensure that road designs were motorcycle-friendly, prioritizing safety and enjoyment for riders.

After retiring from the powersports industry, Bill Hearne didn’t stop there. He went on to create the Dakota Adventure Loop (DakAL), a thrilling off-road trail that showcases the region’s natural beauty. In addition, he established the nonprofit SD Trails Development Corporation to promote the development of new trails, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among riders.

Bill Hearne’s dedication to off-road adventures and his commitment to creating better trails have left a lasting impact on the riding community. His vision and expertise as a route architect have made the Black Hills BDR-X one of the most sought-after motorcycle routes in the country.

Planning and Preparation

Proper planning and preparation are essential for a successful and enjoyable ride on the Black Hills BDR-X. To ensure you’re well-equipped for the journey, make use of the provided packing lists and frequently asked questions (FAQs). These resources will help you gather all the necessary gear and information you need.

When planning your trip, consider important factors such as lodging, food, fuel, and any required permits. The Black Hills BDR-X offers a variety of lodging options, including campgrounds for a more rustic experience and hotels for added comfort. Make sure you have enough food and fuel along the route, and check if any permits are required for certain areas.

To stay on top of any changes or updates, regularly check for route updates and stay informed about road conditions. This will help you navigate effectively and adjust your plans if needed. Prioritize safety and convenience by being aware of any road closures, weather conditions, or potential hazards along the way.

By taking the time to thoroughly plan and prepare, you can maximize your experience on the Black Hills BDR-X and create unforgettable memories. So gather your gear, study the packing lists and FAQs, and embark on an epic adventure through the breathtaking landscapes of the Black Hills region.

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Hey y’all! It’s Chase Manhattan, a life-long gearhead, tinkerer, and adrenaline junky. I like to write about all things technical in the Harley Davidson and motorcycling space.