Why is now the right time to hike the Little Missouri State Park?
It’s just turning green. The scent of junipers and cedars cloud the trail. Few if any bugs are buzzing. The temperature is cool-ish. The crowds are sparse. The trails are solid.
The Time is Right
It can feel a little bit exciting to be one of the first people who like to hike in to the wild. Those tracks of hiking boots are yours. You’re the only one out here.
About 20 miles north of Killdeer on Highway 22, you’ll find The Little Missouri State Park. It opened May 1. That means you have access to the parking lot, the vault toilets, the picnic shelters and the park rangers. The park becomes increasingly busy as summer progresses, so that makes now the right time to sample a trail.
It’s Turning Green
In the few days it’s been since we hiked it at the start of the season, it has greened up much more. We went looking for crocus. We were early. You’re right on time if you go in the middle of May to the first of June.
Crocuses are an amazing flower. It’s found in Asia, Russian Cana, a and the U.S. Its trick is to bloom early, sometimes even in snow. There’s no snow in the Park now, but crocuses are visible.
Trees are starting to leaf; Aspens are the first to bud out.
Evergreens are particularly fragrant now. While you are hiking, take time to stand in a grove of junipers and smell the freshness. Compare the difference in aromas when you move out on to a rocky portion of a trail. Smell the rocks?
The Temperatures are Coolish
It’s surprising how much you heat up by just walking – of course, it’s more than walking. Every elevation change requires a bit of work. So, the cool weather is refreshing. Yes, the temperatures feel cool, but don’t get deceived. You will need water when you hike the Little Missouri State Park. That flannel shirt over your t-shirt will be the first to peel off. Wear sunscreen. The sun feels good, and the south-facing rocks will reflect a lot of heat.
Bugs are Few
Not many mosquitoes or deer flies right now.
However, bees are hungry. They will be getting fed anywhere they can find nourishment. That means your honey-wheat shampoo will be mighty tempting to them.
Oh, and ticks. They’re just starting now. You’ll find them in tall grass and in trees. They’re not yet at their peak, which will be in a few weeks, the first part of summer.
Unfortunately, it was a dry winter. Rangeland, pastureland could use some green. There’s not been much rain, yet. June is the rainy month of the year, so May is the “in-between-time” when the trails are solid. The slippery bentonite hillsides (those blue-silver clay surfaces) are dry and crumbly. When they’re wet, they are natures “slip-and-slide.”
Don’t get caught on the trail when it gets dark. It’s easy to lose your way, and every summer, the Park Rangers have to rescue people who got lost.
Recommended: Return by late afternoon. Aim to return by 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. When you turn around, you’ll see things you didn’t see earlier as shadows grow.
Here’s more about the Little Missouri State Park and three good reasons to hike there this weekend.
I didn’t know this! Click here to learn more about the Prairie Crocus.
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