De-stress on National Hiking Trails Day

Need a reason to soak in the calming green of the Badlands?  Here’s one: The first Saturday in June is National Hiking Trails Day.  That means you have millions of acres to de-stress on trails from easy to challenging.

Our four hiking trail recommendations — from easy to challenging

  1. Easiest: East Entrance Trail
  2. Easy: Ice Caves Trail
  3. Challenging: Long X Trail
  4. Most challenging: Caprock Coulee South Trail



East Entrance Theodore Roosevelt National Park

April 1, 2018, East Entrance to South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Flag pole and outside monument are gone. Hills have changed a bit.

East entrance

History buffs especially will love this easy hiking trail.  The East Entrance Trail in the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park takes you back in time to before Interstate 94 was built.  It takes you to the original stone building that greeted visitors.  

Plan a fun adventure if you have children, too.  Part of the fun  is getting to the trail head. You’ll drive almost the entire broken scenic loop of the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

Enter the park on the southwest corner, and follow the loop all the way around to the southeast corner.  Along the drive, you’ll meet prairie dogs, bison, maybe some deer, antelope or horses. 

Don’t spend too much time with the prairie dogs because your hike to the east entrance goes right through a prairie dog town.

Throwback Thursday Beautiful Badlands ND East Entrance TRNP

Park at the trailhead and head off on your 1-mile stroll (about 10 city blocks).  The old visitor center makes a good backdrop for family photos.

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Hike around to the north of the Ice Caves to get a spectacular view of the North Dakota Badlands.

Ice Caves Trail

We debated where to put the Ice Caves Trail in this list. You can get there one of two ways. If you want a challenging hike, head to the Ice Caves from Magpie Campground. 

However, there’s an easier way. Drive in to the hiking trail head, park and wander across the grasslands to where you drop below an impressive cliff.

couple on ledge over ice caves

A couple stand on the ledge over the ice caves where the grasslands drop in to the badlands.


Below the cliff, in the aspens, down low is the entrance to the ice caves.



This popular trail attracts photographers and families.

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In spring, the Long X Trail follows a vibrant green valley.

Long X Trail

You can take a full day for this one — the full loop is 6 miles.  Or hike out to where you want to turn around, and make your own way back. The Long X Trail winds along the Little Missouri River, through trees and grasses.

Most of the time, the trail is fairly level with only a few gradient changes.  If you are following the trail posts, they’re easy to see. You can de-stress here by just soaking in the warm sun, the green landscape and the moderate exercise.

The Long X Trail crosses creek beds, wraps around hills.  It’s a favorite trail for casual mountain bikers. (If there is such a thing as a casual mountain biker.)

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Most Challenging

Caprock Coulee 

One of our all time favorite trails is the south section of Caprock Coulee. It leads through amazing rock formations and follows a ridge above the Little Missouri River. 

The hiking trail begins with is a steep climb up several sets of steps from the parking are.  Your legs will get a work out because there is a fair amount of up-and-down. 

Start at the parking lot go up the hill and then west and you will end up near Riverbend Overlook. 

North Unit TRNP

The Golden Hour just as the sun sets from the top of the Achenbach Trail near the Riverbend Overlook.

The hike back to your vehicle is when you will feel the muscles you just used to get where you are. That’s a good thing.  Your endorphins will be kicking in and you will have a new outlook on life.  So, enjoy the last leg of this hike with an easy walk down the road.


Bonus: Most rewarding hiking trails we recommend

It’s the views, the solitude, the moments of meditation on these two points that we toss in here as bonuses.  

If you are ready for a real exploration in the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, take Boicourt Trail out beyond the established trail.  Follow the hilltops and ridges to get far into the interior of the Park.

You’ll get to some overlooks that are good to sit a spell, and observe, soak in the lush green valley.  This is when you de-stress.

A second recommendation, and one of my personal favorites is the hike to Devils Pass. 

If you follow Goat Pass Road to get to the Maah Daah Hey crossing, and follow the Maah Daah Hey to Devils Pass, it’s an easy exercise. 

Then, once you get to the Pass, things become very impressive, because of the views.


Hike off the trail

After a storm rolls by, a rainbow presents itself.

Late afternoon storms are common, so keep an eye on the sky. You may get to catch a beautiful rainbow.

Even though the first Saturday in June is National Hiking Trails Day, you know, you don’t have to stick exactly to the hiking trails — marked or unmarked.

Try picking a point, and challenge yourself to follow wildlife switchback trails to get to the top. 

For example, if you wander around Magpie Creek Valley, climb to the top of mesas and plateaus, you’ll see a panorama you’ll not forget.

Overlooking Magpie Creek, North Dakota Badlands

In the heart of the North Dakota Badlands is a hidden gem (to most).  The Magpie trailhead connects to the Maah Daah Hey Trail. Look for signage on US Highway 85 at Lower Magpie Road, south of Grassy Butte and north of Fairfield. The views, the quiet, peaceful landscape are second to none.

Explore the Park Interior

Did you know the interior of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is open for you to explore?  You don’t have to stick to a hiking trail.  Wildlife trails will lead you into the interior if you’re up for it.

For example, in the south unit, park near the scenic drive washout, and hike to Scoria Point Overlook.  Head off to the northwest, following wildlife trails.  Don’t lose track of where you are and where you started. Then, make a wide loop to return to your vehicle. Keep turning around to see where you’ve come from so you know where to head when you turn around.  Watch the clock so you have the time to return while it is still daylight. Oh, and watch out for sinkholes. They’ve been a bugger the last couple years.

In the North Unit,  Park at the far end at Oxbow Overlook and head straight east. You’ll go down some steep hills and follow some valleys.  To the south of you is the marked Achenbach trail that leads back to the Oxbow Overlook. To the north of you, up the tall hills is the scenic route you drove to get to Oxbow Overlook.

Click on the Share Button

So now, what? It doesn’t have to be National Hiking Trails Day to enjoy these trails. Grab your buddy who could use some de-stresssing and some outdoor activity on a North Dakota hiking trail.

Get them interested. Just click the “share” button and plan an exploration. It’s free!  It’s healthy!

You can’t beat a deal like that!

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