Most riders will find five days a more acceptable pace. If you want lodging, a good 5-day breakdown is: Hills City to Edgemont (141 miles), Edgemont to Keystone (213 miles), Keystone to Belle Fourche (147 miles), Belle Fourche to Bufffalo (193 miles), Buffalo to Hill City (205 miles).
If you wish to spend time at any of the special sites along the way, then plan on a 6-7 day adventure.
Riders should be of intermediate skill level or better. The DakAL is not recommended for beginning or novice riders. This is not just a gravel road ride!
Gas, lodging, camping & food
Park your rig:
If you stay at least one night at the Rushmore Express in Keystone, you will be allowed to leave your tow vehicles in their remote parking lot. The Rushmore Express is used as the event headquarters for the Dakota 600 and has given us excellent service.
Minimal service locations:
Edgemont: One very basic motel (Cowboy Inn www.cowboyinn.net ), 2 cafes downtown, 2 gas stations.
Savoy: Highly recommended Spearfish Canyon Lodge, http://spfcanyon.com , gas, great food and lodging. Make sure you see both Roughlock Falls and Spearfish Falls.
Camp Crook: No lodging, two cafes. No Gas Available! There are no supplies available in Camp Crook.
Buffalo: Tipperary Lodge Motel is only lodging available ( www.tipperarymotel.com ), one good café & bar, abundant gas.
Hoover: Low octane gas and air compressor, small general store with grub fixin's. A National Historic location!
Newell: Newell Hotel is very basic and the only game in town ( 605) 456-2789 ), 3 cafes, abundant gas.
Route details & tips - Tough stuff notice!
Tough Stuff: Ride your own ride. If you come to a section that looks to be too technical for your liking, study your maps and find a go-around. Don't take risks!
If things get wet you will find the route very difficult. There are four sections that are more technical than most of the ride:
Route Breakdown: For ease of GPS point tracking and information, the DakAL is broken into four sections as explained below:
Section 1- Hill City to Hot Springs - 272 miles
Gas, food and lodging: The only supply option for this entire section is Edgemont, SD. Edgemont has two restaurants on Main Street, two gas stations slightly out of town on the main highway and one very basic motel.
Special places: Black Hills National Forest, Bear Mountain, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, Ft. Igloo, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, Cheyenne River crossing, Mammoth Site.
Tip: When you ride the bridge over the Cheyenne River entering Edgemont, observe the water level. Later in the day the route will take you through the river. If the river is moving fast with a milky white or brown color, then the river crossing will generally be impassable. DO NOT cross the river with rapid flowing water! The river will be impassable about 30% of the time. Video on Crossing the Cheyenne River.
When riding through the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, ride slowly and quietly and stay on the trail! This portion is an easement through private land. If you wish to stop and view or photograph the horses you must purchase a pass from the Sanctuary headquarters (605-745-5955).
Section 2- Hot Springs to Savoy - 203 miles
Gas, Lodging & Food: Hill City has many choices. Trailshead Lodge has gas, food and cabins. Spearfish Canyon Lodge, at Savoy, has high octane gas, good food and spectacular lodging. The lodge is highly recommended. DakAL route distance from Hill City to Spearfish Canyon Lodge is 105 miles.
Special places: Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Rd, Mt Rushmore, Cement Ridge Lookout, Spearfish Canyon, Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Falls, Bridal Veil Falls
Lots of photo ops today. Keep your camera ready.
Tips: Buffalo are dangerous. Do not approach. Stay at least 50 yards away. Don't get packed between cars when buffalo are crossing the road - make sure you have an escape route. Buffalo can accelerate to 23 mph faster than you can!
Section 3 – Savoy to Buffalo - 250 miles
Gas, Food, Lodging: Lots of choices in Belle Fourche. Camp Crook has two cafes. DakAL route distance between Belle Fourche and Buffalo is 205 miles. You may need to carry extra gas. No lodging in Camp Crook. One motel (Tipperary Lodge Motel), high octane gas, and one café/bar available in Buffalo. There is a free public campsite in downtown Buffalo.
Special Places: Geographic center of the nation, Bakken Oil Fields, Custer National Forest.
Tips: Lots of cool, dispersed camping locations in North or South Cave Hills. One free, public campground in the North Cave Hills (Picnic Springs).
On the east side of the South Cave Hills, there is one section for "Experts Only". There is one steep, single track down hill that can be a challenge. It is only about 200 yards. You may want to walk it prior to riding this section. If it looks spooky, turn around and ride back out.
Section 4 - Buffalo to Hill City - 205 miles
Gas, Food & Lodging: Gas and snacks are available at Hoover Store. Newell has gas and food. Sturgis has many choices. Nemo has food, gas and cabins.
Special places: Slim Buttes Battle Field, Bear Butte State Park, Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground, Full Throttle Saloon, Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, Ft. Meade, Black Hills National Cemetery.
Tip: Blaster Bill's Bed and Breakfast is self-service trailer available to all riders. Located south of Hoover next door to nowhere. Just kidding... trailer is unusable!
The GPS track are a .gpx file and can generally be used with Garmin or similar devices. Tracks are updated periodically as trail routes and conditions change. At any time you may find that conditions on the ground have changed since the last update. Use your own judgment and be safe. Data points filtered not to exceed 2000 points per track.
Reading the GPS tracks:
Primary routes: s1,s2,s3,etc designates the main route sections.
Shortcuts: s3 sc1 would mean the first shortcut for section 3. Shortcuts are spread throughout the riding day to allow you to shorten or lengthen your riding day as you see fit.
In a few instances, the route doubles back on itself. If the track shows a route going both left and right at a turn, zoom out and the correct direction will become obvious.
If your GPS unit poops out you will be quickly lost without a map back-up. CARRY YOUR MAPS WITH YOU!
SAICON – Special Advisor In Charge Of Nothing
The Big Picture
The Dakota Adventure Loop (DakAL) is a giant figure-eight route through western South Dakota and reaching from the Nebraska border to the North Dakota border. total route is about 930 miles. The route can be ridden in several different sections, or enjoy the entire adventure in a multi-day trip. The views are best if the lower portion is ridden in a counter-clockwise direction and the upper loop ridden in a clockwise direction.
The entire DakAL can be completed in four long days of hard riding with only short stops for food and gas. Experience shows that completion in four days is difficult for most riders. Fatigue will rear its ugly head and many will then cut out interesting sections to conserve time and energy.