The George S. Mickelson Trail is a fabulous 108 mile rails-to-trails path running through the heart of South Dakota's Black Hills. We had explored a small section of it on a previous expedition to find Rapid Creek Falls. Now we were back in the area and in the mood for an easy hike through the forest.
At the intersection of Rochford Road and Mystic Road was a small parking area and access to the Mickelson Trail. We began by hiking southeast along the path.
It was a lovely day for a walk along the wide and even trail. The girls eagerly set off, ready for some exercise in the beautiful wilderness.
After a few minutes of walking we were overlooking the loud, rushing waters of Rapid Creek Falls, just off the Mickelson Trail. We took some time to enjoy the scenery. Here the forest was dense and wild, coaxing visitors into its depths.
After taking in the sights, we continued along the trail. We crossed bridges over Rapid Creek, which wove its way through the forest alongside the path. The flat trail meandered deeper into the lush woodlands.
Eventually we came to a nice spot for a rest at mile marker 77. There, we found a bench tucked away in the shade. It had been almost a 2 mile walk from our starting point at the Mystic Road junction. We stopped and enjoyed a well deserved water and treat break.
The bench was positioned at the mouth of Tunnel C, one of 4 large tunnels along the Mickelson Trail. The tall and imposing void had been blasted through the hill in order to allow trains to pass through at one time. The dogs seemed curious about the sizable chamber and were interested enough to venture through it. In the late 1800s and early 1900s trains would have roared along this route, tearing in and out of the mountains. Today the cavern was eerily silent as the dogs sniffed the ghosts of past adventures.
One of the wonderful things about the Mickelson Trail is the ability to customize the length of the hike. Because the entire trail is so long, we could do as much or as little of it as we pleased. We decided not to go farther than Tunnel C on this particular occasion.
Behind the bench, just to the side of the tunnel entrance, Rapid Creek flowed and widened out a bit. The water cascaded gently into a broad area of the stream, fit for wading into.
We ventured down the bank, where large chunks of slate had been placed into makeshift stairs. The girls cooled their paws off in the water. They frolicked in and out of the creek, thoroughly enjoying this lovely place.
Once the girls were done playing in the stream, it was time to rejoin the trail and begin the (approximately) 2 mile hike back.
The dogs were having a fantastic time following the path and investigating all the scents along the way. The trek back went smoothly as we traversed the wide trail through the woods.
After a while, we made it back to Rapid Creek Falls and stopped off to see it once more. We stood overlooking it for a bit before moving on. A few minutes later, and we found ourselves back at the car again.
This had been a fun stroll through the forest. The Mickelson Trail is wide, well-maintained, and easy to traverse. This particular stretch had some interesting sights, and the dogs had a wonderful time playing in the creek along the way. We all had a marvelous day on our walk in the deep and dense Black Hills woodlands.