Hiking in North Dakota mountains

The Best Hikes in North Dakota

North Dakota may not be at the top of your list for hiking destinations. However, the Peace Garden State has many scenic trails and hidden gems. With rugged badlands and rolling hills, its landscapes are perfect for hiking. Seasoned hikers looking for a challenge and beginners desiring a relaxing stroll can find many options.

Grab your hiking boots and get ready for an adventure. Today, we’re sharing the best hikes in North Dakota that you won’t want to miss. Let’s get started!

Hiking in North Dakota mountains

What Is North Dakota Known for?

Visitors primarily know North Dakota for its thriving agricultural industry. It’s a significant wheat, barley, corn, and soybean producer. In addition, it’s the largest producer of sunflowers, which are the state flower, in the United States.

Vast open prairies provide ideal ranching conditions, making it a major beef producer. Its robust agricultural sector has helped fuel its economy and support rural communities.

There’s also a thriving oil industry, as it sits atop the Bakken Formation. This is a massive oil reserve spanning several of the plains states. Since the discovery of oil in the Bakken Formation in the late 2000s, they’ve experienced a significant economic boom, with thousands of new jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Many think of Theodore Roosevelt National Park when they think of North Dakota. It features dramatic badlands formations carved by erosion over millions of years. The 26th President of the United States frequently spent time ranching in the area.

The park is popular with hikers, campers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Visitors to the park can see bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, and other animals in their natural habitats. You can spend days exploring this breathtakingly beautiful national park.

Use these 5 Tips to Avoid an Unwanted Rendezvous With a Rattlesnake while hiking in North Dakota.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Go Hiking in North Dakota? 

The best time of year to go hiking in North Dakota depends on your preferences and the trails you plan to explore. However, generally, the most popular time for hiking is from June to August.

Temperatures are mild, and the weather is generally dry at this time, making it a comfortable time for outdoor activities. Many of the hikes in the state are accessible, and visitors can enjoy scenic vistas, wildflowers, and wildlife sightings.

Another popular time to go hiking here is during the fall, from September to October. The leaves change colors, creating a stunning red, yellow, and orange display. The weather is generally mild, but temperatures can start to drop toward the end of October.

Winter can be a suitable time for hiking for those who enjoy cold-weather activities. Many hiking opportunities are open year-round, and visitors can experience the stark contrast between the snow-covered badlands and the tranquility of a frozen lake. However, winter hiking requires extra preparation and caution. Weather conditions can be harsh and potentially dangerous.

Hiking at sunset in North Dakota

The Best Hikes in North Dakota

If you enjoy adventures that involve lacing up your hiking boots and hitting a trail, we have some options to consider. We’ve found some of the best hikes in North Dakota that provide epic views and can help you appreciate the state’s natural beauty. Let’s dive in!

Wind Canyon Trail

About: Wind Canyon Trail is in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is a short yet captivating loop where hikers can explore the park’s stunning badlands terrain. It takes visitors through a canyon carved by wind and water, culminating in a breathtaking overlook of the Little Missouri River.

The moderate incline and well-maintained path suit hikers of all skill levels. Its prime location allows for encountering wildlife like bison and wild horses. With its scenic views and accessible length, Wind Canyon Trail is a must-visit destination for those seeking to experience the natural beauty of North Dakota.

Length: 0.5 miles

Skill Level: Easy

The Big Plateau and Ekblom Trail Loop

About: The Big Plateau and Ekblom Trail Loop is a remarkable loop nestled in the heart of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This moderately challenging hike offers a chance to witness the park’s diverse landscapes, from expansive grasslands to rugged badlands. 

The loop combines two trails, Big Plateau and Ekblom, taking visitors through various terrain and providing potential wildlife sightings. Come expecting breathtaking vistas, unique geological formations, and fascinating historical sites.

The Big Plateau and Ekblom Trail Loop is an unforgettable experience for those seeking adventure and a deeper connection with North Dakota’s untamed beauty.

Length: 5.2 miles

Skill Level: Moderate

Petrified Forest Trail

About: Petrified Forest Trail is an extraordinary out-and-back hike in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. With moderate difficulty, visitors enjoy a journey through time, showcasing the remnants of an ancient petrified forest that thrived here millions of years ago. 

The path meanders through stunning badlands formations, offering awe-inspiring vistas and the chance to observe petrified tree stumps and logs up close. Hikers must traverse the rugged terrain and keep their eyes peeled for wildlife.

The Petrified Forest Trail presents a unique blend of geological history and natural beauty, making it an unforgettable experience for explorers seeking to uncover the hidden wonders in the region.

Length: 10.2 miles

Skill Level: Moderate

Painted Canyon Nature Trail

About: The Painted Canyon Nature Trail is a beautiful looping trail in the Painted Canyon area of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This easy-to-moderate hike allows visitors to witness the stunning, multicolored layers of the badlands up close, showcasing the area’s fascinating geological history.

As hikers meander along the well-maintained path, the rewards are the panoramic views of the vibrant canyon and the expansive landscape beyond. It’s suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels, making it an ideal family-friendly excursion.

Rich in natural beauty and easily accessible, the Painted Canyon Nature Trail is a must-visit destination for those wanting to experience badlands scenery.

Length: 1.1 miles

Skill Level: Easy

Worried that old age will stop you from hitting the trails? These are 5 Signs You’re Too Old for Hiking.

The North Country Trail

About: The North Country Trail is a long-distance hiking route spanning seven states, including 440 miles through North Dakota. You can experience the diverse and untamed beauty of North Dakota’s landscapes, from the serene prairies to the picturesque Sheyenne National Grassland.

The hike is a part of the more extensive 4,600-mile trail. However, the North Dakota segment provides a challenging yet rewarding experience for long-distance hikers and backpackers. Additionally, there are plenty of shorter day-hike options for casual walkers.

The North Country Trail in North Dakota is an exceptional adventure for those looking to experience the state’s natural wonders and terrain.

Length: 440 miles

Skill Level: Various

White Horse Loop

About: White Horse Loop is an enchanting loop within White Horse Hill National Game Preserve. This easy hike takes visitors through diverse landscapes that include lush woodlands, rolling hills, and the scenic shoreline of Devils Lake. Unfortunately, it is prone to flooding, and portions may be inaccessible during the rainy season.

Along the way, hikers can observe native wildlife, like bison, elk, white-tailed deer, and various bird species. Offering picturesque views, varied terrain, and rich wildlife, the White Horse Loop is a delightful and memorable hiking experience for nature lovers exploring the area.

Length: 2.0 miles

Skill Level: Easy

Caprock Coulee Loop

About: The Caprock Coulee Loop is a mesmerizing loop within the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. This moderate-to-difficult hike takes adventurers through the striking badlands terrain, showcasing unique geological formations, colorful canyons, and caprock features.

Hikers can view bison, prairie dogs, and wild horses while traversing this well-maintained path. In addition, the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape do not disappoint. 

The Caprock Coulee Loop offers natural beauty, geological wonders, and a healthy dose of adventure. It’s an unforgettable experience for hikers looking to explore the best of North Dakota’s outdoor offerings.

Length: 4.4 miles

Skill Level: Moderate

Buck Hill Trail

About: Buck Hill Trail is a short yet rewarding out-and-back hike in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. With a moderate incline, this relatively easy hike leads adventurers to the summit of Buck Hill, which stands at an elevation of 2,855 feet.

At the top, visitors are treated to stunning 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding badlands, offering a glimpse into the park’s striking landscapes and unique geological formations. 

Due to its short distance and well-maintained path, the Buck Hill Trail suits hikers of all skill levels and ages. It is a perfect option for families or those seeking a quick yet fulfilling excursion amid the breathtaking beauty of North Dakota.

Length: 0.4 miles

Skill Level: Moderate

Put on Your Hiking Shoes for Trails in North Dakota

North Dakota’s diverse and captivating landscapes make it a hiker’s paradise, offering many trails that cater to varying preferences and abilities. From the dramatic badlands and verdant grasslands to tranquil shorelines and vibrant wildlife, there is something for everyone to appreciate. 

So, put on your hiking shoes, pack your sense of adventure, and uncover the beauty of North Dakota’s trails. Whether you’re seeking solitude, recreation, or simply an opportunity to reconnect with nature, these unforgettable hikes can leave a lasting impression and inspire a newfound appreciation for the enchanting terrain of this great state.

Which of the hikes on this list will you attempt first? 

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