It seems that summers can be quiet intense here in the Northern Plains.  The days are long, the activities are packed and we do as much as we can before winter sets in.  Sometimes it’s good to have a place to find absolute quiet, peace, rest, isolation — places where you can unwind, think and recharge.  Here are seven ideas, and one extra bonus to help you find your escape from a noisy week.

7. Cartwright Tunnel and Fairview Lift Bridge

Who would have thought that a lifeline across the state would be so popular?  When a railroad was needed to connect western North Dakota to eastern Montana, a bridge was built over the Yellowstone River. But steamboats may need to get through, so the bridge was built as a lift bridge.  It was never lifted for a steamboat.  Today, it has an enclosed walking path with benches that lead from a parking lot to the Cartwright Tunnel.  More about the bridge


Fairview Lift Bridge

A quiet place to take a walk that is unlike any other walk — the quarter-mile long Fairview Lift Bridge.

Local farmers and ranchers hired on to build the tunnel, obviously starting from the top down.  The quarter-mile tunnel is in danger of being close to public access unless money can be accessed to shore up the east end of the tunnel where vandals have cause damage that is caving in the east end.


Bill Shemory photograph of Cartwright Tunnel

Reportedly a dollar a day hired these men to work 10 to 12-hour shifts to dig the tunnel. Obviously, they started at the top and worked their way down to get enough clearance for a train to pass through.
Photo from the Digital Horizons collection and the State Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-7-24-2).)

More about the Cartwright Tunnel.

6. Fort Buford

Fort Buford is an incredible part of American history — but few people know about it. (Even spoken of in the movie The Remnant.)That’s why it’s a quiet place to rest and restore from a noisy week.  A walking trail, picnic area, historic cemetery and life-size metal sculpture of a horse are surprises at Fort Buford.  

The grave markers give you a hint of Fort Buford life then…and maybe now, too!

Here’s more about Fort Buford.

Fort Buford

5. North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park,

14 miles south of Watford City is the national park that is undersold and over-delivers.  The North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is rugged, beautiful and accessible for a quiet easy hike on a trail such as Cannonball Concretions, or something more challenging such as Achenbach. Camping, hiking, sightseeing are good ways to find rest after a noisy week.


Bull bison or buffalo next to the road

A lone bull stands next to the road in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit.


4. Little Missouri State Park

20 miles north of Killdeer is the most rugged area of North Dakota.  The Little Missouri State Park is the final stretch of the Little Missouri River that began at Devils Tower and ends at Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River. Picnic, hiking, camping, are promoted here at this state park. Be prepared. If you choose to take one of the more difficult trails (they’re clearly marked for difficulty) take water. Lots of it!

rock snake

Jutting out at hikers at the Little Missouri State Park is this rock formation that looks like a prehistoric snake, dinosaur or monster.

Learn more about this state park by clicking here.

3. Summit trail

Walking along the tops of the hills and ridges is much easier than climbing up and down the trails below. That’s why we recommend parking at the Summit Campground and then exploring the ridge that used to be the Summit Trail.  It’s 20 miles south of Watford City on the west side of Highway 85, two entrances. Picnic tables, campsite.  The trail is closed, but the area is public land.  Make your own trail.


Badlands ridges can be easy

Mid-spring, the buds are beginning. Later, they are fully leafed. Following a summit or ridge can be an easy stroll over grassy hills. It’s how our “hike” began.

Summit Trail

View from Summit Trail

2. Lake Ilo

Two miles west of Dunn Center (8 miles east of Killdeer) is a wildlife refuge, park and small lake for fishing.  Lake Ilo is clean and quiet.  We know of no more isolated, unpopulated beautiful oasis in the Badlands.  Lake Ilo includes picnic sites, a walking trail, historic markers, and fishing access. It is open sunrise to sunset.

quiet lake ilo

East shore of Lake Ilo.

1. Sentinel Butte

Two miles south of the town of Sentinel Butte on Old Highway 10, the Old Red Trail.  Technically it is a private area, four acres are public wildlife area (so be very very respectful of the property when you visit the plateau. Disrespect could cause it to be closed just as other important points in the state have been closed to the public such as the tallest point in the state near here, White Butte.)

Sentinel Butte is home to a multitude of plants and grasses. It is the historic site of 1864 death of two members of the Ree Tribe.  (Fun fact: Sentinel Butte at one time was in Montana, at least unofficially, then became part of North Dakota, then Montana, and finally the state line was set so that Sentinel Butte is in North Dakota, just 10 miles from Montana.  Rail crews marked the east side of Sentinel Butte as the North Dakota/Montana State line.)

The old road cuts up the face of Sentinel Butte

purple coneflower

The western plateau on Sentinel Butte is home to many varieties of western grasses and plants.

town of sentinel butte

The town of Sentinel Butte is three miles north of the butte.

Sentinel Butte is one landmark on a road trip that you will enjoy — but take your camera!

Bonus: Makoshika State Park, Ponderosa Campground

Makoshika State Park is not really a part of the North Dakota Badlands since it is in Montana, but it is part of the geological formations that are the North Dakota Badlands. It is on the outskirts of Glendive, Montana and is worth the trip.  If you want, there are several private well-equipped campsites where you can nap, picnic, camp or rest, read and relax. 

Makoshika state park

Badlands formations make up the bulk of Makoshika State Park.

makoshika state park

Yes, that’s a frisbee golf hole on the hill in Makoshika State Park. A challenging course!

Eastern Montana motorycycles

Dropped in and among the steep hills and expansive valleys are regions of rugged rangeland for riders to sample.


Help us out here, reader. Where do you find peace and quiet in the Beautiful Badlands?  Where do you recommend we go to get away from a nosy week?

Comment below, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Share this with someone who needs some rest and recovery.

But wait! There’s more!

Coming up, an exquisite barbeque stand we’re highlighting on our Tasty Tuesday post.  Later, find out more about Fort Buford.  And find out which is more popular with Badlands lovers, the North or South Until. Subscribe to get a note in your inbox when a new article is posted.