Grasslands Above the Ice Cave Trail in Western North Dakota

A long drive through rugged countryside, deep into the heart of the North Dakota Badlands, reveals open range grasslands. North Dakota’s only Ice Caves are hidden here.


Ice Caves and Towering Bluffs.  North Dakota?

Ice Caves and towering bluffs.  North Dakota?  This can’t be North Dakota.  It’s flat!   Oh, but it’s not!   Get off the main roads, explore US Forest Service trails and campground areas.  You might be surprised at what you find!

Towering Rugged Bluffs Over the Ice Caves in North Dakota

Not many places does an easily traversed trail lead to such a rugged landscape as this, the Ice Caves Trail area. Note size of the person atop the bluff! The Ice Caves are below this outcropping.


Towering Bluffs!

No other trails in North Dakota have brought us to such towering and rugged bluffs!  The scene which unfolds is a definite, WOW!   

Overlooking the Ice Caves Trail, North Dakota

After a hike across rolling prairie grasslands, the rugged badlands of western North Dakota open up. Wide! Beneath this area is the Ice Caves Trail, which connects with the Maah Daah Hey Trail, and the Magpie Creek Campground and Trailhead area to the south.


An Icy Cave!

There's Ice in that Cave! Billings County, North Dakota

Climb down into this open area, and you’re in a cool place. Literally. Ice remains in this cave year around. And yes, it’s slippery in there!

The US Forest Service Ice Caves Trailhead provides a parking area and a well labeled, easy hike to the only ice cave in North Dakota.  Some call it the O’Brien Cave, for it’s location on land which has been ranched by the O’Brien family for generations.

On Top of the Bluffs Overlooking Ice Caves Trail, Northern Billings County, North Dakot

North Dakota’s only Ice Caves, also called O’Brien Caves, named for the ranch family which has ranched this land for generations, are located beneath these tall bluffs. Northern Billings County, North Dakota.

A Beautiful Area of Cliffs and Trees 

A spring hike reveals small touches of green beginning to appear, and Pasque Flowers (wild prairie crocus) pop up in unexpected places along the trail.   Aspen trees already provide shade, and inspire a vision of brilliant gold and yellows which accent this area in the fall. 

Scairt Woman Road Near Grassy Butte, North Dakota

West of Grassy Butte, North Dakota is Scairt Woman Road. It’s a well worn scoria/gravel ranch road that leads deep into the heart of the rugged badlands. Do not drive this road if conditions are the least bit wet, or in the winter! It’s impassable (except, maybe, to local ranchers) under adverse conditions. How did it get it’s name? Mountain lions might be the source of the road’s designation!

Where Is It?

Ice Caves Trailhead is located southwest of Grassy Butte, North Dakota.  To get there,  travel on rough and rugged Scairt Woman Road (also US Forest Service Road 809 for the first several miles) .  It begins west of Grassy Butte, south off of McKenzie County Road 50, which is also known as Beicegel Creek Road, and goes through open range cattle country.  It’s literally someone’s back yard, and respect of the surroundings is important.   Several miles south, 809 branches to the west, but Scairt Woman Road continues south.   Remain on Sciart Woman Road, do not follow 809 to the west.   Still heading south, do not turn onto 806, which forks to the east.  Continuing south and passing into Billings County, a brown sign will be found on the west side of the road. It points to the Ice Caves Trailhead parking area.  

Ice Caves Trailhead Road Sign, Scairt Woman Road in Western North Dakota

Access to the Ice Caves (O’Brien Ice Caves) in extreme northern Billings County is gained by traveling south on Scairt Woman Road, which begins west of Grassy Butte in McKenzie County, North Dakota. The US Forest Service is one of the agencies involved in this trailhead, part of an extensive trail and campground system in the Little Missouri National Grasslands area.


What other areas in western North Dakota are open for exploration?  Find out here:  Top Ten Great Places to Explore in Western North Dakota 

You might not believe that these scenes are in North Dakota!  Click here:  Is This Really North Dakota?  You Bet It Is!

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