Central Hills Ride
This two-lane 71-mile ride through the Central Hills is a rider’s scenic adventure. From Rapid City, it runs over Rimrock Highway, down Highway 385 to Hill City, past Mount Rushmore into Keystone, with a final pass through Rockerville. The entire stretch takes about three hours without stops. That is virtually impossible on this ride, however, because of the many opportunities to take in the scenery, stroll through a town, stop for lunch or dinner, and admire the magnificence of Mt. Rushmore. This is a picturesque ride through the countryside and is full of history. It has many twisties and elevation changes, making it easy to get too deep in the throttle. Keep in mind that the roadside ditches are right next to the fog line, made of granite, and aren’t forgiving in the event of an accident. Start at Rapid City, taking Hwy 44 W (Jackson Blvd.) Travel East to Hwy 385 South. Next turn East on Hwy 244 to Keystone and catch Hwy 16 back to Rapid City.
Northern Hills Ride
The Northern Hills Ride is locally known as the “Canyon Ride” as it takes you through Boulder, Spearfish and Vanocker Canyons on a 2 ½ hour, 100 mile loop which begins and ends on Main Street Sturgis. According to veteran riders, this may well be one of the most picturesque rides in the country. If you can’t take in all the rides listed in Black Hills Motorcycle RIDES, don’t miss the Northern Hills Ride. The diversity of this route is what makes the veteran riders refer to it as one of the best 100 miles of motorcycle riding in the country. Head West out of Sturgis on Hwy 14 (through Boulder Canyon). At Deadwood, catch Hwy 85 North to I90, travel into Spearfish (Exit 14) and take Hwy 14A South, (Spearfish Canyon), all the way down to Cheyenne Crossing, turn left and head into Lead, then turn East on Hwy 385. At Nemo turn North to go through Vanocker Canyon and then back to Sturgis.
Southern Hills Ride
The Southern Hills Ride is a beautiful mix of mountains, southern foothills and wide open stretches taking you through three historic towns, three counties, a State Park and two National Parks. The Southern Hills is often missed by visitors because it is a perimeter route, while other more centrally located rides take precedence. As a favorite among seasoned local riders, however, the Southern Hills Ride is one you should not miss. After two hours of riding time, you've just travelled 100 miles of rough, majestic and captivating countryside of the Southern Black Hills. Head South out of Custer on Hwy 89, past Pringle down to Minnekahta Junction, turn East on Hwy 18, to Hot Springs. Turn North on Hwy 87 which will take you clear up to Hwy 16 where you turn West to head back into Custer.
Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is the most popular ride in the Black Hills because of its diversity and stunning scenery, highlighted by Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The ride begins and ends at Hill City, in the Central Hills and is 62 miles long. Because of the numerous places to stop, most local riders consider this an all-day trip. There are plenty of turn-offs along this stretch to take advantage of these popular sight-seeing stops…the first one offering a unique profile view of George Washington’s image. Further down Hwy 244 on the left is Horse Thief Lake. You will eventually run into Hwy 385 where you will turn right back to Hill City. Two other Black Hills Motorcycle RIDES that leave from Hill City are the “Deerfield Lake” Side Trip and “Old Keystone/Hill City Road” Side Trip. Head South out of Hill City on Hwy 385 South, go past Hwy 244 and turn Left onto Hwy 87, Follow this down to Legion Lake and next turn East on Hwy 16 (Iron Mt Road) and follow that around until you end up in Keystone and eventually back to Hill City.
Custer State Park
The Custer State Park Ride covers the 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road and is the only ride that stays within the boundaries of Custer State Park. The shortest of the Black Hills Motorcycle RIDES Major Rides, this trip starts at the State Game Lodge (on Hwy 16), one of three resorts within the park. This stately lodge is on the National Historic Register of Historic Places as President Coolidge made it his “Summer White House” in 1927. The park gained national popularity when Coolidge made a national announcement from the Black Hills that he was not seeking a second full term in office in the election of 1928. Custer State Park is the second largest state park in the country covering 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain. Offering an abundance of wildlife, mountain peaks over 7,000 feet, scenic drives and granite spires, it is a motorcycle riding paradise. While there are places that may test your riding skills on this route, its diversity and easy availability offers a beautiful and perfect motorcycle riding experience.
There are so many great rides in the Black Hills, the Badlands are often overlooked. Its location on the eastern plains further compromises its availability to Black Hills visitors. This area is so unique, however, it will be on your favorite rides list once you’ve experienced it. The surreal moon-like topography carved from millions of years of wind, water and erosion has evolved the area into chiseled spires, deep canyons and jagged buttes now known as the Badlands National Park.
Devil's Tower Ride
Over 50,000 rally-goers attend the Hulett Ham ‘n’ Jam which takes place on the Wednesday during Rally Week. Hulett, a tiny town just a few miles from Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, offers its own version of the Rally that has grown in popularity over the years. A number of the Ham ‘n’ Jammers go the extra miles to visit Devil’s Tower, the nation’s first National Monument. Unfortunately, a greater number of riders return to the Black Hills on the same route they came, missing this incredibly unique part of the Hills. With stops at Sundance, Devil’s Tower and Hulett, this ride will take up most of the day. Its attraction is the diversity of the scenery which includes mountains, meadows and the majestic wonder of Devil’s Tower. If you are riding the Devil’s Tower ride during the Rally, you might want to coordinate your ride with the stops and activities along the way. Regardless of when you ride, you will find this 180 mile loop to be one of the most unique riding experiences in the Hills.
Old Keystone/Hill City Road
The panoramic scenery of this side trip includes canyons, and lush meadows, combined with landmarks like Harney Peak, Old Baldy, and the backside mountain range of Mount Rushmore. Maps show the Old Keystone/Hill City Road as Pennington County Road 323, which follows Battle Creek for most of the way. Traveling from Keystone to Hill City, you’ll see the beautiful panorama of the Harney Range. Mountain goats can be seen in the rocky areas near Keystone, but they are timid and don’t normally pose a problem. Deer, however, are more populous and can be a road hazard, particularly at dusk or dawn.
Silver City Side Trip
It wasn’t so very long ago when the men of Silver City still wore side arms and holsters. Townspeople kept their doors unlocked so that passers-by could go in and get food if an owner wasn’t home. This was a town rule because roads were usually unmarked and many travelers became lost and needed shelter. There was never a theft reported by cabin owners who practiced this form of hospitality. It was the Code of the West and unspoken Code of the Black Hills ‘76ers. Stories are told of severe consequences for those who turned away a hungry traveler. Silver City was a mining camp dating back to the very beginning of the 1876 Gold Rush. It’s still home to about 80 primarily seasonal residents. The town sits on Jenny Gulch where Rapid Creek feeds into Pactola Lake.
Nemo Road Side Trip
The Nemo Road ride is a premier side trip that takes riders through canyons, over creeks, and across open meadows on the east side of the Black Hills. This ride, from start to finish, offers some great detours and gives the rider an opportunity to experience some of the best scenery and riding challenges the Hills have to offer. The route winds its way through mountain canyons and mining history ending at Hwy 385. Veteran Black Hills riders consistently rate Nemo Road as a “must ride” experience.
Galena Side Trip
Start this trip out on Deadwood’s Main Street. Follow Hwy 85 west to Hwy 385 between Deadwood and Lead and turn left (south) on 385. There are still a few residents in Galena and some of the old buildings remain standing. At the end of the road by the fishing ponds you can take short walk to Olive Cemetery where Sarah “Aunt Sally” Campbell, the head cook for Custer’s 1874 Expedition, is buried. This is the only Side Trip that is not paved for the last three miles, however, this is a wide compacted, and well-maintained gravel road and follows Bear Butte Creek from Wild Bill’s Campground to Galena. The road is curvy, but wide, and very accommodating to a motorcycle rider. This little town of Galena is loaded with history and is a most scenic three mile ride to the 'town square'.
Highway 36 Side Trip
Highway 36 is a double yellow-striped raod than runs east from the foothills. This is a shortcut into Custer State Park from the south, as well as a lesser traveled gateway to the Black Hills. It is a diverse stretch of road with 50 mph straights, and curves as slow as 20 mph. The east entrances into Custer State Park are not as crowded, and this road provides a beautiful cross section of scenery through the prairies, meadows and foothills as it winds into the heart of the Hills.
Highway 40 Side Trip
Riders will enjoy sweeping curves and lengthy straights as the follow Battle Creek, one of the Hills’ year-round creeks, which meanders along the highway into downtown Keystone. Spokane Mine is one of the more prominent mines scattered along the 14-mile stretch. You will also pass by the Holy Terror Mine in Old Keystone which was considered to be the biggest gold mine in the central Black Hills in its heyday.
Deerfield Lake Side Trip
It is no surprise that a large number of motorcycles are sold to people who live in the Black Hills. The highways and back roads here have frequently been compared to the Alpine roads of Europe….without the congestion. Seventeen mile Deerfield Lake Road is no exception. Starting this ride at Hill City Main Street, turn west on Pennington County Road 308 (Forest Service Road 17) at the north end of Main Street. Even during the busiest times of the year, Deerfield Lake Road is never crowded. It is flatter than many other Black Hills roads, but still has plenty of curves
Sheridan Lake Road Side Trip
Sheridan Lake Road follows Spring Creek Canyon into Rapid City and is another best kept secret for local riders. The best place to begin this ride is from Hill City so you can view various areas of history and see both the north and south shores of Sheridan Lake. Refer to the “Central Hills Ride” for history about the town of Sheridan (Golden Valley) that now occupies a watery grave beneath Sheridan Lake. This lake is fed by Spring Creek which follows alongside the road into Rapid City.
Skyline Drive Side Trip
Skyline Drive runs at the top of the ridge (part of the limestone ridge that circles the entire Black Hills) separating Rapid City from east to west. It provides panoramic views of the Black Hills on one side, and the city and badlands on the other. It’s a curvy and double yellow striped road from start to finish, and includes interesting stops such as “Hangman’s Tree” and Dinosaur Park. This is a short loop but offers some winning views. The road is curvy, sharp and narrow with several turn-offs.
Black Hills National Cemetery Side Trip
Each year thousands of riders pass the Black Hills National Cemetery. Some stop to honor those veterans who have sacrificed, while others nod or salute as they pass by. A stop at this pristine and beautiful national cemetery is worthy of a side trip. The veteran staff at the cemetery are especially aware of the many sacrifices made by the nation’s servicemen and women and their families, and are committed to maintaining the grounds in a manner reflecting this honor, and every effort is made to demonstrate sensitivity to those who have suffered a loss. As many riders are veterans, a stop here may help to heal the loss of a loved one or rekindle patriotic determination.