Trails of the Badlands
From Watford City, take Highway 23 and travel east to Highway 73. Continue east on Highway 73 to Highway 22. At Highway 22, a Scenic Byway, you will want to go south and travel through the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation crossing over the Little Missouri River. As you climb out of the Little Missouri River basin, on top of the hill, the entrance to Little Missouri State Park will be on your left side. Set in some of the most rugged Badlands terrain in ND, Little Missouri State Park is a great place for hiking and riding. For more Badland Adventures continue south on Highway 22 through the community of Killdeer. Just south of Killdeer you will want to take a right on Highway 200 and travel to Highway 85. At Highway 85, take a right and travel north back to the Badlands. Off of Highway 85, as you are entering the highlands of the Badlands, you will be able to access the Summit Campground & Trailhead. Continue north on Highway 85, passing Grassy Butte where you may want to make a stop and check out the “Old Sod Post Office” – listed in the National Register as a historic site. Operated as a post office from 1914 to 1964 it now serves as a free admission museum. After your brief stop, you will continue north until you reach the Little Missouri River. Just before the bridge take a left on Long X Road and travel to the Maah Daah Hey Trailhead at the CCC Campground offering picnic tables, hitching rails, potable water – horses welcome. Watford City is only 20 miles north on Highway 85, but before heading back, you may want to take the 14-mile Scenic Drive within the Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Oxbow Overlook, with turnouts and interpretive signs along the way. This full day circle trip will cover 120 miles.
The Long X Trading Post
Start your trip at The Long X Trading Post Visitor Center and Pioneer Museum – your destination for information on McKenzie County’s past and present. Check out North Dakota’s Largest Petrified Tree Stump and pick up brochures on Western North Dakota’s vacation attractions.
The Pioneer Museum lays a great foundation to any touring in the area. Offering two levels, the Museum presents the pioneering spirit of McKenzie County residents of the past and present. Visit the pioneer parlor and experience all the comforts of home. Check out the Prairie School and the sewing and quilting of the early prairie homestead women and Native American women of McKenzie County. Learn about the last lynching in North Dakota taking place in 1931. See a presentation on what it takes to drill for oil in McKenzie County and view the “to scale” Drilling Rig and Work Over Rig on display in the Oil and Gas Exploration exhibit.
Little Missouri State Park
Wind, water and sand... these components sculpted North Dakota's wildly rugged Little Missouri Breaks Country. Called "Mako Shika" or "where the land breaks" by the Sioux, these unusual land formations offer the state's most awe-inspiring scenery.
Some of the most picturesque Badlands scenery can be found at Little Missouri State Park. Most of this primitive park is accessible only on foot or horseback.
Backpacking and horseback riding on the park's over 47 miles of trails are popular activities. Horse corrals are available for groups bringing in their own horses and artesian wells are located within the park for horse watering purposes. Use of certified weed-free hay is required and is available for sale at the park.
In addition, a horse riding concession with horse rentals and guide services and other services are available from Badlands Trail Rides.
At Badlands Trail Rides they’ll match you with a good horse and head out on one of the numerous trails across thousands of acres of scenic Little Missouri badlands. Whether you’re a novice or adventurous, there’s a horse and trail right for you. Check them out at www.badlandstrailrides.com.
Maah Daah Hey Trail
The north end of the trail begins at the US Forest Service CCC Campground in McKenzie County, located 20 miles south of Watford City, off Highway 85. The 97 mile trail then winds its way to its southern terminus at Sully Creek State Park in Billings County, south of Medora. At the northern terminus you are able to access additional trails: Long X Trail, Summit Trail, Bennett Trail and Cottonwood Trail
The trail name, "Maah Daah Hey", comes from the Mandan Indians. In the Mandan language, one word or phrase can describe a picture, feeling, or situation. In this case, the phrase means "an area that has been or will be around for a long time." The trail uses a turtle as the trail marker. The turtle was honored because of its firm determination, steadfastness, patience, long life, and fortitude.
The trail traverses an area of highly dissected badlands surrounded by large expanses of gently rolling prairie. This area of North Dakota provides prime habitat for a variety of mammals and birds. Mule deer and coyotes are often sighted, while an occasional golden eagle or prairie falcon may be spotted soaring above. Bighorn sheep and elk have been reintroduced into the area and can be spotted by keen observers. In addition, bison and long horns roam the range in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The trail is open for use all year, but at various times of the year, the trail may be impassable due to snow, ice, high water, and mud. Users of the Maah Daah Hey Trail share the same space with horseback riders, hikers, and bicyclists. Users are expected to respect the rights of others. Shared-use trails are successful when users cooperate and abide by the rules.
Theodore National Park North Unit
Teddy Roosevelt fell in love with the North Dakota Badlands on a big game hunting trip in the 1800’s. The man who would become “the Conservation President” stayed on for a good part of five years.
This byway provides the colorful North Dakota Badlands as a scenic backdrop with its sweeping vistas of one of the last remnants of wilderness in the Northern Great Plains. Visitors are provided a unique opportunity for wildlife viewing.
A large herd of buffalo free-roam the park along with the herd of Texas longhorn steers. A herd of Bighorn Sheep are also residents. The park abounds in other wildlife as well. Deer, antelope, coyotes, fox, and prairie dogs. For those of you who prefer to explore the park area on foot or horseback, there are server nature trails along with the Upper Caprock Coulee, Achenback and Buckhorn trails which take you into the backcountry.
The park has the Juniper Creek Campground, along the banks of the Little Missouri River, offering secluded primitive campsites, evening campfire presentations, nature walks and long hikes.