If you are heading to the Black Hills of South Dakota for the Sturgis Rally then you are probably familiar with the epic riding available to you in western South Dakota. But you may not be aware of a few of the sensational rides that are lurking just to the west.
One of the problems with enjoying the Black Hills roads is that during the rally they are packed with like-minded motorcyclists clogging up the hill. If you want to escape the typical rally bike traffic and experience some top-shelf roads, we have you covered with three REVER routes to add some uninhibited riding bliss to your Sturgis trip. The routes range from 350 to 550 miles long and they begin in Sturgis, SD, so plan on adding a day or so to your trip depending on where you are coming from or where you are heading. All three can be done from start to finish in a day leaving from Sturgis if you wanted to drop the hammer, so to speak. But I recommend taking your time and tacking on an extra day, even if it means cutting out of the rally a day early. You won’t be disappointed.
This route is the longest of the three at just under 550 miles. The first 180 miles are uneventful as it is just a highway section we need to knock out to get us into the good stuff. After you blaze down interstate 90, you will exit in the town of Buffalo, WY where I recommend topping off your fuel tank.After your fill up, you will immediately start climbing the southern section of the Big Horn Mountains, which will greet you with perfect sweeping turns and incredible scenery and maybe some chilly temps at the top. The descent consists of switchbacks leading you down to Ten Sleep, WY, where you can splash some more gas in your tank or visit the brewery for some refreshment. From there it's a quick 60 miles to Thermopolis, where I highly recommend you visit Hot Springs State Park for a soothing dip in the springs. Just south of Thermopolis you will cut through Wind River Canyon and be treated to another eyeful of beautiful scenery and sweeping turns. From there, you head west across the prairie toward Dubois, WY. Outside of Dubois the landscape is shockingly desert-like, with red cliffs and often scattered with bighorn sheep. From Dubois you head over Togwotee pass, the continental divide and into the Bridger-Teton forest, which is a one-of-a-kind landscape featuring some stunning mountains. The route ends in the famous mountain ski town of Jackson, WY, where you are sure to find good eats and a cold drink.
This route is under 500 miles and features two of my favorite roads in the entire country along with the most technical riding of all of the three routes. You begin by heading to Belle Fourche, SD, then northwest on Route 212 heading into Montana. Following 212, you will go through Billings, MT before getting back onto the two-lane 212 and heading into the little ski town of Red Lodge, MT. Red Lodge is a fantastic little place with a great main street and wonderful food options. Fill up your gas tank and get ready to ride one of the wildest paved routes in America. The scenery is immediately spectacular as you head west down the famous Beartooth Highway and up the mountain. The breathtaking views can be distracting as you navigate the switchbacks and carousel corners as you climb to 11,000 feet of elevation. Plan on a jacket as you crest the top of the mountain. There are almost always snow drifts still lingering in the distance and temps are generally cool. You will follow 212 almost to Cooke City, MT before taking a left on 296, otherwise known as Chief Joseph highway. The beautiful Wyoming mountain skyline is your backdrop as you cruise through endless sweepers on your way into Cody, WY. Cody is a great cowboy town with a huge museum, another great main street and a rodeo every night in the summertime. I highly recommend an overnight stop here.
At 350 miles, this route is the shortest of the three It sends you north to Belle Fourche, SD and across a picturesque two-lane highway to Hulett, WY and then on past Devils Tower, which is a great stop if you have never seen it. From there, you wind your way to Moorcroft, WY, where you pick up Interstate 90 for a quick 30 miles to Gillette, WY, where you can splash some gas in your tank before hopping back on the two-lane to Sheridan, WY. Sheridan is a great little western town close to the foot of the Big Horn Mountains with excellent downtown shopping, good food and good coffee options (I’m partial to Bison Union coffee). From there, it’s top-shelf riding through the Big Horns. You head up the side of the mountain via near perfect switchbacks and stunning views of the valley and as you cross over the mountain you will cruise by picture-perfect mountain lakes, streams and a variety of wildlife, including an abundant moose population. Weather can be much cooler on the mountain top, so pack a jacket. Coming down the west side of the mountains are more switchbacks, and a bit rockier landscape. Nearing the bottom of the mountains, make sure to stop at Shell Falls and check out the gorge. In the tiny town of Shell, you can grab a burger at the old Shell Store and Taphouse before riding on to Greybull. Although our route ends in Greybull, yours doesn’t have to. You could go on to Cody, south to Thermoplis, or back across the southern part of the Big Horns.
The Sturgis rally can be a ton of fun, but it can also be sensory overload, especially when it comes to actually getting time to ride your motorcycle. Plan on either spending a few extra days on your trip or maybe just getting away from the rally a few days early and trying out one of these routes. The riding and scenery will not disappoint you, and if you want to take the experience to the next level I recommend moto-camping. There are plenty of reasonable options for camping on all the routes and it adds to the experience.
So don’t let rally get you down. Head west on your motorbike and explore the American west.