This trail is quite steep and climbs 756 feet from the start of the Mickelson Trail in Deadwood through the Open Cut Homestake Mining area to Lead, SD. It climbs through pine forest and plays peek-a-boo with awe-inspiring views of the area surrounding Deadwood and Lead in the northern Black Hills, including through the Homestake Mining Company’s Open Cut.
My son and I ran this as a 5k, and it was the hardest 5k of my life. We both took wrong turns at the beginning and ended up backtracking to find the trail again as the wooden signposts are a little hard to spot unless you know what you are looking for.
You start at the Deadwood Trailhead across from the Monument Health Hospital in Deadwood. Around a quarter mile up the trail (to the west), keep your eyes peeled for a large upright wooden rail tie that contains signs for both the Mickelson Trail and for the Homestake Trail. The Homestake Trail heads up a steep hill to the right. You traverse several steep switchbacks until the trail runs mostly uphill along the spine of a large hill, offering amazing views of the surrounding area from time to time.
The first mile out of Deadwood is a brutal climb, after which my heart rate remained around 180 beats per minute – which is much higher than usual when I am running.
When you spy the Open Cut, a large mining area, you have conquered this trail. The rest of the trail is downhill, ending at the Homestake Mine Visitor Center in Lead. Be warned, if you are my age, you will feel the half mile of steep downhill in your quads tomorrow.
You can also run this from Lead to Deadwood and cut out most of the difficulty, making the trail mostly downhill – but where is the fun in that?
As you travel this trail, keep in mind that the Homestake Mine is a significant part of Black Hills history. It was a deep underground gold mine, tracing back to a gold discovery in 1876 during the Black Hills Gold Rush. Homestake was eventually taken over by businessman and soon-to-be politician George Hearst, who grew the mine and profited greatly from it, using both hard work and more nefarious methods. When those nefarious methods drew public protest, Hearst bought the newspaper in Deadwood to influence public opinion. (Yes, it’s those Hearsts. His son, William Randolph Hearst, would later become a renowned sensationalist newspaperman.)
Until the Homestake was closed in 2002 because of low gold prices and poor ore quality, it was the largest and deepest gold mine in North America, as well as the longest continually operating mine in U.S. history. It also produced a lesser amount of silver. You can still see old mining equipment around the Northern Hills, and on display in several parks and museums.
Homestake has now been taken over by the National Science Foundation for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory for scientific research on neutrinos, dark matter particles and enhanced geothermal systems. The lab is open for tours.