Forest Service OKs fat bike trails

January 19, 2018 GMT

SPEARFISH — Fat tire mountain biking, or “fatbiking” as it is called, has been growing in popularity as a winter sport in the Black Hills for a number of years.

The Black Hills National Forest Service is responding by designating groomed trails for adventure cyclists in the Northern Hills. In years’ past, the Forest Service has repurposed some of it’s hiking and biking trails for cross-country skiing.

This will be the second year they’re additionally repurposing some maintenance and skid trails to accommodate the growing trend. These offshoots allow fatbikers to enjoy the groomed trail ways and scenery of the Black Hills without infringing on their fellow winter sportsters. They will be maintained for winter use until March 31.

Fat bikes have oversized tires, which provide a higher contact surface and low ground pressure that allows the rider to traverse a wider range of terrain such as snow.

The posting of signage directing riders to those paths specially designated for fat bikes is underway and Bonnie Jones, recreation specialist for the North Hills Ranger District, hopes to have it completed as soon as possible.

“Maintenance and grooming will vary depending on the conditions and availability of volunteers,” Jones said. “We are trying to provide that opportunity for this new winter sport that’s taking hold in the Black Hills and reduce conflict with the other sports out there.”

Jesse Hansen, a working member of the Black Hills Nordic Association which grooms and maintains a few of the trails, explained some of the variables that set fat bike trails apart from regular skiing tails.

“They’re narrower and more compact,” he explained.

He went on to say that regular ski trail grooming usually compacts the snow to .7 psi whereas the snow for a fat bike is compacted to at least 3-5 psi. That’s why it’s so important to distinguish the two types of trails.

Areas with new fat bike accessible trails include

• Mount Roosevelt trail: Located north of Deadwood, SD and starts on Forest Service Road (FSR) 133. Northern Hills Recreation Association is grooming the road from Moon Mountain Lane up to and around Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower.

• SnowDog trail: Located about 1 mile south of Spearfish off of Tinton Road (FSR 134), the approximately 3 mile Snowdog trail can be accessed from the upper Tinton trailhead and Spearfish Quarry ATV trails.

• Iron Creek/ Red Lake trail: Black Hills Nordic Ski Association is grooming and maintaining this series of trails located in Spearfish Canyon, approximately ½ mile south of Long Valley Picnic Area. The trail follows Iron Creek and meanders through walls of limestone. The trail also traverses into the Red Lake ATV area and depending on conditions, potentially to the Old Baldy Trail.

• Big Hill/Higgins Gulch: Also groomed by Black Hills Nordic Ski Association, this trail starts at either the Big Hill trailhead or Crow Peak trail parking lot. To get to Big Hill from Spearfish, travel south on FSR 134 approximately eight miles to the trailhead which is on the west side of the road. To access the Crow Peak trail parking lot, travel from Spearfish southwest on FSR 214, approximately 7 miles to the parking area, which is on the west side of the road. NOTE: Although the trailhead starts at the Big Hill trailhead, it is not part of this ski trail system. Officials ask that users do not ride their bikes on the ski trails.

• Lower Deadman trail: Black Hills Trails grooms this trail that begins on the south side of Sturgis, SD off of Pine View St. This approximately 4 mile trail goes out and back to Vanocker Canyon.

For more information regarding fat bike trails with maps, visit www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills.

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