Starting down the hill at the beginning of the trail

The first few yards are the easiest when starting at 000 on the Maah Daah Hey trail at Burning Coal Vein Campground

A mountain bike journey of 144 miles starts with the first mile.  So, that was our itty bitty goal on Easter Sunday – the first mile of the Maah Daah Hey. 

Bikes rest at the back of the pickup

We drove the 23 miles from the Highway 85 at Amidon to reach the Burning Coal Vein Campground and unloaded the bikes to see what we would see.

Until now, the most rugged riding we’ve done is a section line road, about one mile of a two-track trail.  We had talked about trying to pedal a little of the Maah Daah Hey, but only a part.  So, this was a brave step for two out-of-shape old folks.


You see, the trail is 144 miles of Badlands riding. It’s an internationally recognized single-track trail – one of the best in the world.  That’s intimidating.

We’re a couple of baby boomers who thought bicycling the Maah Daah Hey is only for youngsters. We found out there’s nothing stopping someone from trying some of the easier portions.  We’ll let the young buck do the whole 144 miles.  We have hiked many portions of the trail, perhaps 40 or 50 miles of it at different times.  Never had we attempted to bike it.

We decided to start at the beginning, at the Burning Coal Vein campground near Amidon in Slope County. 


Too muddy to ride through the gate

Too muddy to ride through the gate.


Mile marker zero to mile marker 1.  Yep, just one mile.  It’s a start.


The first few hundred yards was okay.  The goal is to keep up your speed enough that you don’t tip over.  We did that easily. Then, we portaged across a muddy creek bed and continued on. 

We found a place along the fence where we could get out of the mud.



That first mile is tricky.  It’s very narrow, just 18 inches or so, a deep cattle trail that is so narrow your pedals will get stuck in against the walls of the trail. So, the best thing is to look ahead and be prepared to ride off the trail to bypass the cattle ruts.







  It’s a long, slow gentle slope with a couple of steep hillsides.  We took a break at every post to give our lungs a chance to stop trying to burst out of our chest.


Posing by mile marker one on the Maah Daah Hey trail.

We made it to mile marker ONE! Only 144th of the entire distance.

We thought about quitting before we hit the first mile post, but decided to push on.  The mental barrier we created for ourselves was as great as the physical barrier of old age.


Made it!  

We stood at Milepost One, jubilant we had persevered and conquered our self-imposed handicaps and were encouraged to return to the Maah Daah Hey in the future. 






Last stop before the one-mile coast to the bottom of the valley.

We turned around, and as you might guess, what goes up must come down. 

Downhill is the best part. Coasting as fast as you dare.

Down we rode in just a few minutes.  An hour and a half for the first mile up, and 14 minutes down.  No pedaling. Just coasting, riding the brakes. We hooted and hollered our way to the bottom. What a thrill!


If we can do it, so can you. We’d like to hear about your first attempt.  Please share.


Coming up Monday, read about Devils Pass a high narrow path between two hills

More Trails to explore, so we’ll tell you about them. What’s your favorite trail?

For more information on the Maah Daah Hey, here are two links:

Here is more about the Maah Daah Hey

Some diehard fanatics ride the trail in the winter

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