North Dakota’s China Wall
The oldest China Wall isn’t in China. It’s in North Dakota. The geological formation was formed many eons ago, long before the more well-known China Wall in China was built.
Two routes to the China Wall
That’s right if you want to see the original China Wall, take a drive west. Get off the blacktop, turn west on Highway 85, north of Grassy Butte toward Bennet Creek. Drive 4 miles of gravel through the National Grasslands, and then down in to the Badlands.
But wait! There’s more! Striking out toward the China Wall from the Bennett Creek Campground is a good healthy hike. There’s a better way.
Instead of turning south to the Campground, turn north, follow Forest Service Road #823 as it curves west toward the Maah Daah Hey. Then, down in to the Badlands.
You’ll know you’re close when you come down the hill, around the curve on the bottom of the valley and come to the Prairie Dog Town. Read more about Prairie Dogs by clicking here.
We weren’t 100% sure how to get to the China Wall. It had been 15 years since I had last been there and never from the shortcut, always from Bennett Creek.
The Maah Daah Hey trail and the China Wall
We knew the key to getting on the right track is to get on the Maah Daah Hey where it crosses the gravel road we had just crossed. After a couple of trials and errors, trying to match up the Forest Service Map with the topography, we got on track. Click here to read more about the Maah Daah Hey trail.
Across the valley floor, up a hill, through the trees, and around the bend we came to the sheer face of the long sharp ridge called China Wall. It’s 100 yards or longer, forming a sharp line at the ridge. One side is sheer, the other side is scalable.
We found mountain lion tracks, one set large, one set smaller. They had gone up the scalable side, leaving their prints in the soft mud. Now the surface was hard and their prints cast in the side of the hill.
The best view is from the top
At the top of the hill, is a mesa, a flat plateau with steep sides.
A quick look for mountain lion scat or meal leftovers, and we found none. But now we know if we want to site a mountain lion, where we can go, hide out and wait for one to appear.
Here is video proof that from up above, the view is one you’ll always remember.
As always, the trip down took much less time than the hike up the hill. We drank our water to rehydrate because even when it’s not summertime heat, it’s still important to stay fluid, even if your mind thinks you’re not thirsty.
Next time we’ll head to the China Wall from Bennett Creek. Have you hiked Bennett Creek Trail? What are landmarks you recommend? We’re always looking for points of interest we’ve not yet explored, so what do you suggest?
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