|Trail scene in Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit|
Total Length: 959.9 miles
The Fifty Trail makes a sweeping tour across North Dakota using three major long-distance trails.
Beginning in the southwest corner of the State the route follows the Great Plains Trail north through Bowman and then within a mile of 3506’ White Butte, North Dakota’s high point. Continuing north on quiet roads the route rejoins the Little Missouri River as it traverses Little Missouri National Grassland.
North of the town of Amidon, one of the smallest county seats in the nation, the trail reaches the southern Terminus of the 147 mile Maah Daah Hey Trail at Burning Coal Vein Campground. The Maah Daah Hey Trail fords the Little Missouri River twice (which can be a significant challenge early in the season and during wet periods), coming to an end at the CCC Camp Campground on the banks of the river.
The Trail then crosses the river on a highway bridge and immediately joins foot trails heading west across the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
There is a road walk before the trail arrives at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. This is a driving route with a series of historic landmarks along the way. The Fifty Trail visits two prominent ones—the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center and Lewis and Clark State Park. The actual Lewis and ClarkTrail is, of course, a paddling route on the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea.
After a dozen miles of remote trail through Little Missouri State Park, the Fifty Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail driving route continues eastward on country roads to Pick City and nearby Lake Sakakawea State Park where the western terminus of North Country National Scenic Trail is found.
The North Country Trail is the longest of the nation’s National Scenic Trails. It runs 4600 miles from central North Dakota to connect with the Long Trail in northern Vermont. The Fifty Trail follows the route of the North Country trail from its western Terminus to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula without deviation. There are some long stretches of road walking, but a significant part of the 436 miles of North Country Trail route in North Dakota follows the levee banks of the McClusky and New Rockford Canals then parallels the Sheyenne River, finally crossing into Minnesota at the Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site.
MAPS and TRAIL GUIDES:
White Butte, ND high point, good description of trail with lots of photos: http://www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com/2013/03/30/white-butte/
North Country Trail in North Dakota: https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/north-dakota/
Maah Daah Hey Trail Association: http://mdhta.com/
Maah Daah Hey Trail Association Trail guide, includes all 144 miles, with downloadable GPX file: http://mdhta.com/trail-guide/#trails/maah-daah-hey
Maah Daah Hey Trail Association, Wolf Trail guide, with downloadable GPX file: http://mdhta.com/trail-guide/#trails/wolf
REI Hiking Project guide to the Maah Daah Hey Trail, the original 95 miles, with downloadable free GPS track: https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7006039/maah-daah-hey
REI Hiking Project guide to the Maah Daah Hey II Trail with downloadable free GPS track: https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7011131/maah-daah-hey-ii-the-deuce
REI Hiking Project guide to the Achenbach Trail with downloadable free GPS track. Only the first part of this, the North Achenback Trail, is part of the Fifty Trail route: https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7004193/achenbach-trail
Theodore Roosevelt National Park hiking information: https://www.nps.gov/thro/planyourvisit/hiking-and-trail-information.htm
National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map number 259 (Theodore Roosevelt National Park) covers the Maah Daah Hey Trail end to end in great detail.
Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center: http://www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/mycic/index.html
Lewis and Clark State Park, with trail map: http://www.parkrec.nd.gov/parks/lcsp/trails.html
Little Missouri State Park trail information with link to comprehensive map of their 47 miles of trails. The Fifty Trail Route uses these trails and also two-tracks through adjacent Federal Lake Sakakawea property. See next link for the complete GPS Track. State Park Link: http://www.parkrec.nd.gov/parks/lmosp/trails.html
GPS Track – the Little Missouri State Park Traverse: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/fifty-trail-north-dakota-little-missouri-state-park-traverse-south-half-26206194
HEART OF THE TRAIL:
The Maah Daah Hey Trail from Sully Creek State Park through the heart of North Dakota’s badlands to intersection with Buckhorn Road, County road 712. Exactly 50 miles.
9949.1 – (add 0.0) North Dakota-South Dakota border with parking area (no facilities) on right on the North Dakota side. Start of the North Dakota Segment. Continue north on US 85.
9968.3 – (add 19.2) Junction with US 12, Bowman, ND. Turn right, heading into town on combined US 12 east and 85 north.
9969.0 – (add 0.7) US 85 turns left, heading north, in the center of town. Straight ahead ½ mile on US 12 is the major grocery store in town. Otherwise head north on US 85.
9981.2 – (add 12.2) Turn right on 74th St., heading east
9985.2 – (add 4.0) Turn left on 140th Ave., heading north with ND’s High Point, White Butte, coming into view on the left at 3.5 miles.
9990.2 – (add 5.0) Junction with 69th St. SW. This is the access road for the roughly 2 ½ mile side trip, with hiking trail, to reach the summit of White Butte. This trail is on private land. Otherwise continue north on 140th Avenue.
9995.2 – (add 5.0) Turn left onto US 85 heading west, passing through small town of Amidon after one mile. With a population of 21, Amidon is one of the 4 or 5 smallest county seats in the US.
9999.0 – (add 3.8) Where US 85 turns southward (left), exit right to continue west on 64th St.
10000.2 – (add 1.2) “Ten-Thousand-Mile Junction.” Turn right on 145th Ave./East River Road and head north
10002.5 – (add 2.3) At ‘Y’ Intersection stay left to remain on East River Road, heading NNW.
10010.3 – (add 7.8) Turn sharp right onto access road to Burning Coal Vein Campground and trailhead.
10011.1 – (add 0.8) Maah Daah Hey II trail crosses road (46.601005, -103.445845). Turn left and follow trail generally northbound. Southern terminus trailhead parking is ¼ mile south on the trail or 0.4 miles by road.
10058.1 – (add 47.0) Turn right on trail at fork, immediately after crossing paved Bible Camp Road. Down the left fork on trail or left via the road 0.2 miles is the northern terminus trailhead of the Maah Daah Hey Trail II. Travel north-northeast beside Bible Camp Road then bear left to parallel East River Road. Continue following the trail. After 0.6 miles turn left into trees and shrubs and climb away from the road, heading westward around the north flank of a badlands ridge. At 1.2 miles merge with a two-track heading south to the bluffs overlooking the Little Missouri River. Follow the bluffs northwestward to where the terrain drops, turn north to descend from the high ground via a big switchback, heading north then south then turning north again on the bluff beside the river to a sharp switchback at 2.0 miles. From here the trail drops away from the bluff, turns north at a second sharp switchback and follows a wash/gulch northward away from the river.
10060.5 – (add 2.4) Entrance road to Sully Creek State Park. Turn left and travel just 250 feet to reach the Maah Daah Hey trailhead up the road to the NW. Follow the Maah Daah Trail north, fording the Little Missouri River at an island near the north end of the campground and following the map route/trail directions north through both units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The Great Plains Trail route uses a road walk bypass of this ford of the Little Missouri River, also giving a resupply opportunity in the town of Medora, and joining the Maah Daah Hey trail just as it passes under Interstate 94, almost five trail miles north. For this road walk, turn right onto the Sully Creek State Park entrance road, left on East River Road, left on Pacific Avenue in downtown Medora, then turning right off Pacific Avenue where two ramps to Interstate 94 intersect on the left.
10156.1 – (add 95.6) CCC Campground trailhead parking. Exit the campground via the access road, turn left onto Long X road after ¼ mile, and continue northeast on Long X Road
10157.4 – (add 1.3) Turn left onto US 85 to cross the Little Missouri River via the historic 1959 Long X bridge. This bridge may be demolished in 2019 as construction begins on a new four-lane US 85 bridge and section of highway through Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit. Head north on US 85.
10158.2 – (add 0.8) Turn left onto Scenic Drive, the entrance road to Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit. Proceed westward into the park.
10159.6 – (add 1.4) Buckhorn Trail shoulder parking (47.600841, -103.279504). Where Scenic Drive bends toward the southeast, leave the road and turn right onto the Buckhorn Trail. Follow this trail as it climbs up through the badlands, heading generally west. The Great Plains Trail route continues to follow paved Scenic Drive through the entire park.
10161.8 – (add 2.2) Trail Junction (47.609160, -103.306694). Side trail to Hagen Spring to the right, to Prairie dog down to the left. Continue straight on Buckhorn Trail, heading northwest across the open pasture. Pass trail markers at (47.609732, -103.308668), (47.611564, -103.311088), (47.612358, -103.311756), (47.614335, -103.313886), (47.615420, -103.316353), (47.616118, -103.318549), (47.616379, -103.321097), and (47.616894, -103.325358) at 1.1 miles where the trail drops into another area of badlands and cattle trails become less confusing.
10163.8 – (add 2.0) Cross wash at (47.623326, -103.338752) and continue Northwestward along the wash. Trail marker at (47.626748, -103.342035) in open pasture with many cattle trails. Continue northwest to cross stream at (47.628191, -103.344664) then turn left to follow that stream west then southwestward passing trail marker at (47.626931, -103.347841). Pass through a prairie dog town and cross a wash at (47.623511, -103.352331), then turn south reaching a large open flat with prairie dog town at 1.1 miles. Continue south through the heart of this popular prairie dog town to trail marker at (47.619457, -103.352285). From here the well-worn trail continues straight, slightly east of due south.
10165.8 – (add 2.0) Trail Junction (47.610659, -103.349422, with a bypass shortcut that cuts the corner). Buckhorn trail continues Southeastward, much less used. Turn right toward Caprock Coulee Trailhead, heading west staying beside the base of a badland bluff on a well-worn trail.
10166.1 – (add 0.3) Trail junction within sight of Caprock Coulee Trailhead parking lot (47.610050, -103.354961). Turning sharp right here is the ¾ mile interpretive nature trail section of the Caprock Coulee Trail Pick up a brochure at the trailhead or online (link provided above). Continue straight west to the trailhead parking lot, cross the highway and follow this portion of the Caprock Coulee Trail loop as it climbs to the high bluffs for some good views of the Little Missouri River. There is a side trail along a ridge northward to a viewpoint overlooking Cedar Canyon at 0.65 miles.
10167.2 – (add 1.1) Trail junction. Turn left onto the North Achenbach trail, which drops steeply down off the bluff toward the river. (Straight ahead after 0.2 miles the trail reaches the paved main park highway leading to the Riverbend Overlook, with short side trail to the 1930’s CCC-built viewpoint pavilion.)
|View of Little Missouri valley from the Riverbend Overlook, Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit. NPS photo.|
10171.9 – (add 4.7) Oxbow overlook and trailhead parking lot at the end of the Park Scenic Highway. Follow the highway northwestward.
10172.4 – (add 0.5) Turn left onto a two-track that exits the highway. Follow the two track northwestward, exiting the park after 1/3 mile.
10172.7 – (add 0.3) Immediately after leaving the park, turn right, leaving the route of the Great Plains Trail and the two-track, to follow the Wolf Trail north and eastward. The GPS track provided by the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association is the guide to this 8.8 mile trail through National Grassland property. The Fifty Trail again diverges here from the Great Plains Trail, but will rejoin it again after 16.7 miles.
10181.5 – (add 8.8) Trailhead- a grassy enclosure with kiosk at 18th St. NW (47.674276, -103.376735). Turn left onto the old two-track just before the private oil well service road that parallels it. Head west on 18th St. NW. After 1.3 miles the oil service road merges with public 18th St. NW. Continue due west passing many oil well installations.
10185.2 – (add 3.7) Turn right on 134th Avenue NW and head north. After a mile where 19th ST NW intersects from the right, the road bends left.
10186.4 – (add 1.2) Turn left at ‘T’ Intersection onto paved CR 30/19th St NW and head west.
10188.4 – (add 2.0) Turn left, heading south on CR 27/CR 30/136th Ave. NW.
10189.4 – (add 1.0) Turn right, heading west, on CR 30/18th St. NW. Here the Fifty Trail rejoins the Great Plains Trail which comes up from the south.
10196.5 – (add 7.1) ‘T’ Intersection. Turn left onto State Highway 68, continue to head west
10204.1 – (add 7.6) Junction with State Hwy. 16 at Sather Lake Recreation Area. Continue west on State Hwy. 68.
10208.6 – (add 4.5) Turn right, heading north, on CR 3/McKenzie Rd., following the Horse Creek valley to the Yellowstone River.
10218.0 – (add 9.4) Turn right onto CR 1/Cheney Creek Road, and head north with the Yellowstone River on the left.
10222.5 – (add 4.5) Turn left onto State Highway 200 and head west, crossing the Yellowstone River, and crossing the return (eastward) route of William Clark, who passed this point two days after his 36th birthday, on August 3, 1806.
10226.7 – (add 4.2) Traffic Circle. Straight ahead one mile on 200, across the state line, is Fairview, Montana, with all services. Big Grocery store at 3rd Street South. Turn right at traffic circle, heading north on SD Hwy. 58.
10235.7 – (add 9.0) Turn right just before crossing an irrigation canal/ditch to follow the canal road southeastward toward Fort Buford Historic site
10236.5 – (add 0.8) Turn right off the canal-side road onto interpretive walking trail, part of the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Park, with views of the confluence of Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. This site was first reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition on April 25, 1805. At the end of the interpretive trail, turn right to cross through the boat launch facility.
10237.3 – (add 0.8) Return to the canal road, turn right, and continue east on the canal-side road/39th Circle NW. When in doubt, simply keep the irrigation ditch to your immediate left.
10243.3 – (add 6.0) Fork in both irrigation ditch and road. Stay left, heading northwest with the larger ditch remaining beside the left shoulder of the lesser road.
10244.2 – (add 0.9) ‘T’ Intersection. Turn right onto 42nd St. NW, heading east.
10244.7 – (add 0.5) Turn left, heading north on 147th Ave. NW, crossing the irrigation ditch and then following it with ditch on the right.
10245.0 – (add 0.3) Turn right at first opportunity, crossing the ditch, to follow ditch-side road. Ditch again remains beside the left shoulder of the road. At 1.6 miles a flow control structure sends water east under the road and into a wetland. Continue north with ditch still beside the left shoulder, now coming beside Lake Trenton on the right, a major oxbow lake.
10248.8 – (add 3.8) Ditch and road bear left away from the lake at the Trenton Lake public boat access facility. Stay right following foot trail beside the lake. Turn left at the pier, then left again to exit the boating access area.
10249.2 – (add 0.4) Turn left out of boat access property onto 145th Ave. NW, heading north.
10249.4 – (add 0.2) ‘T’ Intersection. Turn right onto 45th St. NW, heading east.
10250.4 – (add 1.0) Turn left onto 144th Ave. NW, heading north.
10251.4 – (add 1.0) Turn right onto paved state highway 1804, and head northeast.
10253.7 – (add 2.3) Turn right onto 48th St. NW, heading east.
10254.7 – (add 1.0) Turn left onto 142nd Ave. NW, heading north.
10255.7 – (add 1.0) Turn right onto 49th St. NW, heading east.
10256.7 – (add 1.0) Turn left onto 141st St. NW, heading north.
10257.2 – (add 0.5) Turn right onto Lakeview Drive, heading east.
10257.7 – (add 0.5) Immediately after crossing busy 4-lane US 85, turn left onto the frontage road, heading north.
10258.0 – (add 0.3) Turn right onto Country Lane, heading east.
10258.2 – (add 0.2) Just before Country Lane makes a right angle bend to turn right/south, turn left and head north on a business lane.
10258.4 – (add 0.2) Turn right onto W. Front Street, which is a frontage road for 4-lane divided highway US 2. Head east into the oil boom city of Williston—the city that fracking built. Its population has doubled in the last ten years.
10261.4 – (add 3.0) Turn right onto 2nd St. W/Business US 2. Head east.
10261.9 – (add 0.5) Turn left at 14th St just before the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep Dealership, and head north one block.
10262.0 – (add 0.1) Turn right on West Broadway St. and follow it due east through town, mostly on sidewalks that are nicely separated from the street. Continue east on Broadway through the heart of town as it becomes East Broadway after 14 blocks, then simply State Hwy 1804.
10266.5 – (add 4.5) Turn right, heading southeast on 132nd Road NW.
10269.7 – (add 3.2) Turn left onto County Road 11A/48th St. NW and head east, then turning south after five miles.
10277.0 – (add 7.3) Turn left onto 46th St. NW and head east. Road curves left after 2 miles and heads north as 123rd Ave. NW/CR 42.
10280.9 – (add 3.9) Turn right onto CR 15/48th St. NW and heading east for one mile, then south for a mile then generally east again.
10285.9 – (add 5.0) ‘T’ Intersection. Turn left onto 119th Road NW, heading north then curving around to eastward.
10288.0 – (add 2.1) Lewis and Clark State Park. Access their trail system via a short walk ‘cross country’ up to a bluff overlooking a pond. Just after passing the pond on left (with small bay to the right of the road, waypoint 48.113460, -103.243843), leave the highway and climb up to the bluff where there is a trail-end overlook/viewpoint, as shown on the Park trail map (see web site).
10290.2 – (add 2.2) Leave the Lewis and Clark Trail system. Immediately after the North Trail crosses a footbridge over Gamache Creek and begins to head east toward the campground, turn left on a two-track, heading west, and leave the park, again crossing Gamache Creek, and emerging on 119th Road NW at (48.132593, -103.238506). Turn right on 119th Rd. NW, heading north-northwest.
10292.6 – (add 2.4) Turn right onto North Dakota Highway 1804, the Lewis and Clark Trail driving route, headed east.
10299.2 – (add 6.6) White Tail Bay public boat launch on right. Continue generally east on Hwy 1804, then after 26 ½ miles, turning south as the course of the Missouri River also bends southward.
10346.2 – (add 47.0) Junction with Main Street/ND 23 in downtown New Town. Big grocery store is one mile east. Otherwise turn right and head west on the sidewalk on the north side of Main St. headed for the Four Bears Memorial Bridge over Lake Sakakawea. After three blocks, join the bike/walking trail that generally follows the highway west.
10349.1 – (add 2.9) Lakeside parking area and Start of Four Bears Memorial Bridge, with dedicated pedestrian/bike walk separated from the lanes of traffic by a concrete wall.
10350.0 – (add 0.9) West end of bridge. Continue west on bike path. On other side of highway pass the Four Bears Casino, stores, and Three Affiliated Tribes Museum.
10351.1 – (add 1.1) Jct. Chief Four Bears Avenue. Bike path ends. Move over to walk the shoulder of ND 23, continuing to head westward.
10357.5 – (add 6.4) Jct. with ND 22. Turn left, heading south on highway 22.
10387.7 – (add 30.2) Soon after crossing the Little Missouri River, turn left at minor parking area onto Two Track on Federal Lake Sakakawea property and follow GPS Track from link provided into Little Missouri State Park.
10393.1 – (add 5.4) Trailhead, Little Missouri State Park. Several trails converge here. Fifty Trail follows the “I” Trail generally Eastward, then southeastward, and then picks up the “TX” Trail to the south end of the park. See the link provided for the GPS Track.
10400.6 – (add 7.5) Parking area, Trailhead/old cattle loading/staging area at federal property boundary. Turn left onto Oil road/river access road, and head east.
10402.8 – (add 2.2) Road makes a right turn, becomes 97th Ave. NW. Follow this road southward.
10406.6 – (add 3.8) Turn left on 2nd St NW and head east.
10415.6 – (add 9.0) Road makes right turn. Continue south on 88th Ave. NW.
10416.6 – (add 1.0) Turn left onto 1st St. NW, heading east.
10418.6 – (add 2.0) ‘T’ Intersection. Turn right onto 86th Ave. NW, heading south.
10419.6 – (add 1.0) Turn left onto Main St. and head east.
10422.6 – (add 3.0) Turn left onto ND Highway 8 and head northeast.
10425.5 – (add 2.9) Turn right onto ND Highway 1806 and head east, finally leaving the Bakken Formation Oil fields behind.
10452.5 – (add 27.0) At intersection with 58th Ave. NW, ND 1806 turns left. Follow Highway 1806 northward and then curving eastward again.
10467.3 – (add 14.8) ‘T’ Intersection. Highway 1806 ends. Turn left and head north on ND highway 200/45th Ave. NW, curving eastward after 2 ½ miles as 45th Ave. exits to continue north.
10472.4 – (add 5.1) After passing through town of Pick City (services), reach the entrance to Lake Sakakawea State Park/42½ Ave. NW. Turn left and head into the park.
10473.0 – (add 0.6) Lake Sakakawea State Park Entrance Station (47.519591, -101.453573). Turn right at the park office building and pass through or around the building. In back is the western terminus of the 4600 mile North Country National Scenic Trail. Finally, after 1872.7 trail miles, ever since leaving the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, we’re back in the arms of the elite National Scenic Trail System. This is the largest gap in the nation between points on a National Scenic Trail. Although the Fifty Trail doesn’t take the ‘as the crow flies’ shortest route across that gap (which is just 541.4 miles), it does cross the gap at almost its narrowest point (the narrowest is 505.1 miles between here and the CDT near Rawlins, Wyoming). From here the Fifty Trail continuously follows the North Country Trail all the way to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in northern Michigan. For trail directions, refer to maps and guide information available from the North Country Trail Association.
10909.0 – (add 436.0) Minnesota-North Dakota border. End of North Dakota Segment. Continue into Minnesota via the North Country Trail.
Next Segment: Minnesota
Back to Fifty Trail Guide home page
Previous Segment: Wyoming