I made a trip out to the hills a couple weeks ago to check out the 62 inch trail system and see what changes, if any, had occurred over the past 3+ years since I left the hills out of disgust over the new trail system.
The most notable improvement was the installation of many 62 inch wide gates on the previous roads. This has had the effect of finally blocking out the full size vehicles from these trail areas.
As it is only been a few years (or less) since these were installed, the remnants of the huge ruts and tracks remained in many locations and in some places they are still quite troublesome. However, in a lot of areas the ruts and damage are disappearing and the trail is transforming into more of a real ATV/UTV trail.
From end to end there are 347 miles of designated 62 inch trails and of these miles probably less than 50% are truly trails with the remainder still being several years from transitioning from roads into trails. Of the those that are trails, probably 25% are “good trails”. What was different on this trip was that among the miles of good 62 inch trails we did find, some sections that were narrow enough and/or challenging enough that the UTVs were not interested in riding them…so you a had a nice 2 track 50 inch trail available to ride. There were several spots I would not have wanted to attempt with anything other than a 50 inch ATV, given the narrow, steep, tight turning trail.
We also saw more 50 inch wide UTVs than 60 inch wide UTVs on this particular trip. The new AC wildcat Trail and RZR 900s seem to be the predominated UTVs that we met, which then further propagates 50 inch wide 2 track, albeit on a 62 inch wide trail designation.
Most encouraging was that on the 62 inch trails that were truly trails (and not re-labeled) roads, those protected with the 62 inch crossings were not too bad to ride on a 50 inch wide ATV. The alteration to the trail caused by the wider UTVs was nowhere near as dramatic/negative as that caused by the full vehicles. IMHO, full size vehicles, whether they be forest service pickups, rancher trucks, jeeps, or even full-size utvs are largely responsible for ruining the 62 inch trails. I am hopeful that the FS will eventually protect all the 62 inch trails with the green gates to speed the process of recovery to the trails and prevent their destruction by full size vehicles. There are over 3600 miles of roads, comprised of camping, logging, gravel or paved for full size vehicles to drive in the hills. A few miles for the ATV/UTV community doesn’t seem too much to ask.
Probably the most unique feature of the hills for the ATV/UTV enthusiast is the ability to drive a plated ATV/UTV on any road you find to gain access to the trails. We must be very careful as a community to never to do anything to jeopardize this privilege. As noted by the Lester’s in the recent dirt trax episode, this is extremely rare…in fact, they could not think of another place in country where it was possible. Something to keep in mind.
According to the www.visitspearfish.com website there are now 550 miles of combined ATV/UTV, motorcylce and full size jeep trails in the hills. They plan to have a total of 710 miles available when they finish the trail system, so we might see another 50 miles or so of new ATV/UTV trails before they are done.