When considering the best hiking trails in the country, the state of North Dakota may not pop into mind first. However, the state has an abundance of trails that provide hikers with unique geography, beautiful scenery, and exhilarating exercise. Here are our 15 favorite hiking trails in the Peace Garden State.
Called "Mako Shika" or "where the land breaks" by the Sioux, Little Missouri State Park includes some of the most inimitable land formations in the state. In fact, most of the land is accessible only by foot or horseback. Part of North Dakota’s Badlands, the 4,592-acre park includes 47 miles of groomed trails that range from “Green Trails” of beginner-level difficulty to “Black Trails” that are extremely challenging.
One of the most popular vacation destinations in North Dakota, Lake Metigoshe is situated within the breathtaking Turtle Mountains. The Chippewa called the lake "Metigoshe Washegum," or "clear water lake surrounded by oaks." The park is known for its abundant fishing and “The Old Oak Trail,” which was North Dakota’s first National Recreation Trail. The interpretive trail is three miles in length and takes approximately two hours to hike. The park also includes four loop trails that total roughly 8.5 miles. The trails provide hikers with the opportunity to see much of the wildlife the state is known for.
One of the most historically relevant areas in North Dakota, Fort Abraham State Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including 6.75 miles of groomed hiking trails. Hikers can travel a variety of trails, including the “Little Soldier Loop Trail,” which offers incomparable views of the park’s On-a-Slant Village and the Missouri River, the “Bloody Knife Trail,” which runs by the horse corals and the Post Cemetery, and the “Little Sioux Trail,” which runs through native prairie, buffaloberry and snowberry shrub lands, and green ash woodlands.
The North Country Trail is expected to stretch more than 4,600 miles from Crown Point in New York to Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. Currently, the trail passes through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and connects more than 160 public land units. In North Dakota, the trail runs from the banks of the Red River in Wahpeton through the Fort Abercrombie State Historical Site, the Sheyenne National Grasslands, Fort Ransom State Park, and the Lake Audubon National Wildlife Refuge before ending in Lake Sakakawea State Park. The vast trail provides travelers with the most diverse and authentic view of North Dakota.
Located on the North Dakota/Manitoba border, the International Peace Garden is an exquisite mixture of tranquility and beauty. Created in 1932 as a promise of peace between the two countries, the Peace Garden is home to a wide variety of wildlife and vegetation, which includes over 6,000 cactus and succulents. Groomed trails throughout the garden provide hikers with an assortment of recreational options.
Considered one of the state’s best kept secrets, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is a combination of unadulterated beauty and natural serenity. Located in the Badlands, the trail offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a little bit of everything—rolling plains, tranquil rivers, majestic plateaus, and captivating valleys. The entire trail is 96 miles long, and comprised of nine units of varying size and difficulty.
Part of the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway, Fort Ransom is another North Dakota location that combines history and scenic wonder. The park’s trail system is comprised of 14.64 miles of non-motorized groomed loops. Trails range in length from .23 to 2.84 miles. Regardless of the trail you choose, you will be able to immerse yourself in the state’s natural offerings. From walking along the Missouri River to catching a glimpse of the animals that call the park’s woodlands and prairies home, Fort Ransom State Park will provide you with a unique hiking experience.
Located in the heart of the Badlands, Sully Creek State Park is one of North Dakota’s lesser known hiking locations. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t worth a visit. A seasonal park, Sully Creek includes the previously mentioned Maah Daah Hey Trail, but it also contains the 50 plus Maah Daah Hey II Trail. Both trails will allow you to experience the majestic splendor of the Badlands. Canoeing trips down the Missouri River are also available and can be combined with hiking endeavors for a truly unique experience.
One of the most inimitable locations in North Dakota, Cross Ranch is a mix of history and cultural significance. The park has been kept primitive to retain its natural beauty, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the state’s authentic splendor. The 589-acre park includes 16 miles of trails that wind through the park and the adjacent Cross Ranch Natural Preserve. Each loop of the trail system contains a variety of interpretive signs that explain the history and significance of the area.
Located on the north shore of Lake Sakakawea, Fort Stevenson is considered the walleye capital of North Dakota. The trail system, however, is where the park stands out. The park includes 8.13 miles of groomed trails, including a .22-mile interpretive trail and a .48-mile arboretum trail. Visitors to Fort Stevenson can expect an unparalleled experience that combines the glory of North Dakota’s woodlands and plains with the stunning nature of the state’s flagship body of water.
Located on one of the upper bays of Lake Sakakawea, the park is outlined by the magnificent buttes of the Badlands. The trail system includes four distinct trails: the .41-mile Prairie Nature Trail, the 2.55-mile North Trail, the 2.8-mile South Trail, and the 3.03 Shoreline Trail. Each trail provides hikers with a unique experience that exists at the intersection of land, water, and wildlife.
Located on the west shore of Beaver Lake, the park is one of the state’s lesser known state parks. It does, however, provide visitors with year-round recreational activities, including hiking. The 5.34-mile system includes six distinct trails ranging in length from .32 to 2.28-miles. The self-guided, interpretive Beaver Lake Nature Trail is the park’s most popular, in part due to its combination of woodlands, lake shoreline, and rolling prairie.
Icelandic State Park presents a glimpse into the magnificence of the eastern part of the state. The park has a Pioneer Heritage Center, resorted historic buildings, the Gunlogson Homestead as well as a nature preserve. The three-mile trail system includes a three-quarter-mile self-guided interpretative trail that loops along the Tongue River and a variety of trails located throughout the 200-acre Gunlogson Homestead. There is also a six-mile trail that connects the park to Cavalier’s golf course.
Located in the 640-acre Denbigh Experimental Forest, the trail is a three-mile loop that includes a small loop through the forest’s historic arboretum. Denbigh was created after the Dust Bowl hit in the area in the 1930s. Since then, researched has continued to maximize tree growth and sustainability in the area. The Denbigh Trail provides visitors with an up-close look at this unique forest.
Located near Lake Sakakawea, Indian Hills includes the Nux Baa Ga Trail, which means "All the People" in Arikara. The six-mile trail includes six interpretive stops that allow you to experience the beauty of the area while also learning about its rich history. The trail also includes a historical tribute to Elbowoods and surrounding communities that were lost to the lake.