Seeking a LTR

If you want a serious LTR with the Black Hills you need to put your boots on. The Black Hills National Forest has about 472 miles of marked hiking trails. Wind Cave National Park has another 40 or so. Custer State Park has some 35 miles. Throw in various other trails and the distance adds up to more than 750 miles. You might think that's enough. But there's more. Actually, much more.

Most hikers agree that the marked trails are excellent and you never go wrong sticking to them. They have steps and handrails and you can cross most creeks without getting your feet wet.

Perhaps 90 percent of all hikers visiting the Black Hill hike portions of only two trails: The George S. Mickelson Trail, at 114 miles, and the Centennial Trail, at 111 miles. A few hardy soles tackle the whole length of one or both of these trails. Most people are satisfied with day hikes on short sections of these trails.

The Mickelson is an abandoned rail right-of-way and thus is fairly wide and level, ideal for cyclists. It also offers lots of trestles and some tunnels for excitement. It's a great trail for families or groups with leBridge On the
                Mickelsonss active hikers. The Centennial is a trail for the more-serious hikers. It offers some great scenic moments and more challenging terrain. A spur that goes up to the top of Mt. Baldy that's worth a trip in itself.

Other good trails include the Flume Trail (17 miles) and the Deerfield Trail (23 miles) mostly because there are lots of points of historical interest. The Flume Trail still has remnants of Icabod West's flume that was built from Sheridan Lake to Rockerville in 1879. The Deerfield trail gets interesting between Mystic and Silver City. I plan to cover these in more detail in a future blog.

All of these marked trails are groomed, numbered and mapped. Brochures for them are available on line which makes planning a hike a snap.

Then there are the other 10,000 miles of trails. That's not a typo, and it doesn't even include the “deer trails” … those that are created and used by animals. Many of these trails are historical, linking old mining and logging camps to towns or railheads. A few, like a trail above Rapid Creek that hugs a cliff, are considered dangerous, but most are easy to use and follow.

One such trail is the historical Peddler's Trail between the railhead at Mystic and a logging camp on Slate Creek. The logging camp was in a small open area near Flannigan's cabin (see map). Flannigan's cabin, at least what's left of it, occupies a small clearing at the end of US Forest Service Road 606 northeast of Hill City. As a road, FS 606 is not for the faint hearted. It sinks about 3 miles through Spaw Gulch before dead ending. You will need a fairly capable SUV to get there and don't try it in winter, as the snow in Spaw Gulch and be 10 feet deep. Flannigan's Cabin

Flanagan's Cabin is on the north side of Slate Creek. If you hike west, up stream, (a section of the Deerfield Trail) for about a half mile you will find an old miner's tunnel above a clearing. The trail east from Flannigan's Cabin is actually the historical starting point of the Peddler's Trail. About a mile downstream, you will notice a small, unmarked dirt trail to the left heading up the hillside, this is Peddler's Trail. The marked Deerfield trail continues downstream. Pay attention, the split is easy to miss. At first Peddler's Trail is fairly steep but as you near the top of the hill it levels off most of the way to Mystic. The trail itself is less than 2 miles. Out and back from the parking area near Flannigan's Cabin is a total hike of just under five miles.

This trail is called Peddler's Trail because it was used by peddlers bringing merchandise to the miners and loggers working in the camps. The young miners and loggers also used the trail to avail themselves of goods and services only available at the railhead in Mystic. On our map it's shown as a yellow line.

There are many more trails like this that I will touch on from time to time. But at least this will give you an idea of what is out there if you are willing to explore.

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