You have only a day or two on your short vacation and you want to get off the beaten path. Do you want to get away from it all, or do you want to spend it like this:
- With a crush of like-minded visitors?
- In lines for the bathroom?
- Stuck in a slow parade through a park?
- With bothersome people getting in the way of that photo you want to take?
Or would you rather get away from it all, and get off the beaten path to find solitude and peace on your mini-vacation?
If so, here are tips to find relatively remote and secluded spots in either your car or on foot:
Map your route to get away from it all
First, grab your National Forest Service map of the Little Missouri National Grasslands. You can get it on line, or buy it at the visitor center at either the north of south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
You can also get maps at a Forest Service office in Watford City or Bismarck, or the Western Edge Bookstore in Medora. That begins the excitement of finding your way to get off the beaten path.
You will need it to find those locations that Google Maps does not show.
Get off the Beaten Path In your car
Avoid the stop-and-go parade of visitors who stop traffic to view bison or wild horses. Plot a route to see Badland’s ruggedness and western North Dakota ranching.
- Start with a full tank of gas
- Be prepared for spotty cell phone coverage (do not rely on Google maps)
- Check weather ahead of time. Here’s how:
- The National Weather Service has two pages to pinpoint location-specific weather conditions.
- Click “home.”
- Click general “location” on map. (Just a general area. You don’t need to be pinpoint specific.)
- Then click on chart on the lower right “Hourly Weather Forecast.”
- Click on lower right “National Forecast Database.”
- Look for gravel roads. They’re the best way to get off the beaten path.
However, they are slow going, and dusty. So, prepare for dust. You can cut down on the dust if you meet another vehicle by rolling up your windows and using AC. And those two track trails — they can either take you to the exact spot you want (such as Initial Rock) or they’ll take you to a dead end.
5. Prepare to alter your course as road conditions change in the ever-eroding Badlands.
6. Plan to start and stop in one of the Western ND communities such as Beach, Belfield, Marmarth, Killdeer, Watford City, Williston. From there, you can spend the night, grab a bite to eat, gas up and easily find your way back home on your short vacation
Road trips we recommend:
- Highway 22 Dickinson to New Town
- Highway 16 Beach to Marmarth
- Custer Trail Auto Tour
- Mapped route to Elkhorn Ranch and back (gravel)
Get Away from it all on Foot
Still using the National Forest Service map, look for green-shaded sections of land.
Look for large areas south of the Little Missouri River and the north unit of the TRNP.
For example, one of our favorite places to get off the beaten path starts at the Long X trail and then heads up to a nearby high point. There are several to choose from. Pick a tall point that lies inside the green area of the National Forest Service Map.
Another good place to get away from it all is the lesser-used Bennett Creek Trail area.
- Strap on the right boots to keep you safe.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Use a small backpack or waist pack. Include water, sunscreen, insect repellant, flashlight.
- Carry more water than you think you need.
- Time your hike to turn around in time to avoid darkness.
- Frequently look behind to see from where you came so you can visually identify your return path.
Short hikes to get off the beaten path to find seclusion and remoteness
- Burning Coal Vein Trail extension south, or Maah Daah Hey north 1-2 hours (easy to moderate)
- Buffalo Gap Trail 1-2 hours (easy to moderate)
- Peck Hill, east of East Entrance 2-3 hours (moderate to difficult)
- Long X Trail hills 1-4 hours (moderate to difficult)
- Boicourt Trail extension 2-3 hours (difficult)
- Scoria Point 2-3hours (difficult)
We put together a list of 5 destinations you may want to seek out, if you want to get away from the crowds. That story is coming. Just enter your name in the subscription box so we know where to send the alert. Then you’ll be the first to know.
When you’re ready to display the North Dakota Badlands and all their beauty, collectors have added these prints to their homes.
Where are the North Dakota Badlands?
From the ND/SD border, north about 150 miles, the North Dakota Badlands get increasingly rugged as you follow the Little Missouri River to a region north of Killdeer
Where is a North Dakota Badlands scenic drive that is off the beaten path?
We recommend the Custer Trail Auto tour south of I-94 between Belfield and Medora.
Where can we get away from it all in the North Dakota Badlands?
If it’s easy, everyone will do it. That’s why we recommend prepare for a gravel road trip, or a short hike into the interior of the Badlands. Drive Custer Trail Auto Tour, or hike into public land you can find on a Forest Service Map.