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My sport of choice in the summer is mountain biking, and knowing the Black Hills are renowned for their trail access, I was more than happy to bring my bicycle to Rapid City. I was lucky enough to meet up with a local cyclist early Saturday morning, and when I asked him which direction the trails were from town, he chuckled, and proceeded to spin 360° and point at nearly every visible mountain, highlighting the fact that Rapid City is surrounded on all sides by a vast network of trails. The over 300 miles of single track accessible from town covers the full range from novice to expert terrain, and is well maintained by a combination of the Forest Service and the local cycling population.
After consulting a map and the weather conditions (which were impeccable) we chose to ride the Storm Mountain Trail Network just off Highway 16. Immediately, I was taken aback by the quality of the trail and beauty of the surrounding terrain. Smooth, fast, and flowy single track, bordered by tall grasses, wildflowers, and a babbling creek, it was hard to take everything in at once. Over the next four hours, we rode through Ponderosa Pine forests, passed vast groves of Aspen trees, through dirt jump lines, up loose and steep technical climbs, and came screaming back down again. By the end of the ride, my legs ached from pedaling and my face ached from smiling so much.
Back at the trailhead, we consulted the map to see where our ride had taken us, and I was surprised to see how little of the trail network we had touched. Over a half day ride we had only seen a handful of other people, and still had hundreds of miles left to explore. The enormous network of single track has riding for everyone, and plenty to keep a single rider busy for an entire season. But before we could continue, my stomach kindly reminded me that all the pedaling had worked up quite an appetite, and we headed back to town for a bite, only to return to the trails shortly thereafter to continue exploring the vast Black Hills trail network.