140 Miles!  No way!

“Yikes!  You don’t really expect me to hike a 140 mile trail do you?!” she exclaimed.

“Of course not. I know a short cut,” he answered. “in fact, I know 14 short cuts. Let’s check out this easy one.”

luscious green valley along the Long X Trail

Take a walk on this trail. You’ll be glad you did. It will restore your soul this spring, to follow the Long X through a vibrant green valley.


The wandering, easy Long X Trail

Long X Trail is blue. Maah Daah Hey Trail is gold.
Highway 85 is the thin red line on the upper right. Click to see full screen this map from the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association.

So how do you get to the world famous Maah Daah Hey? Of course, you can start at either end.

That means getting on at the CCC Campground to the north, or the Burning Coal Vein to the south.

But then you miss the explorations already laid out for you at trailheads.

Which one is the best one?

The best one is the one you choose. That’s easy.  Isn’t it. 

You can choose by location, terrain, or length. The Long X Trail is short and level. And, it is very easy to access, right off Highway 83.

A little farther south is one of the more difficult trailheads, the Summit trailhead (which officially is closed because of extreme erosion). But it’s public ground and so you can make your own trail along the hills and ridges overlooking the Long X Trail.

Some of the easiest trail heads connecting to the Maah Daah Hey are Magpie Trailhead, Burning Coal Vein and CCC Campground.

And that’s where we began this exploration, at the CCC Campground. A choice is presented at the lift gate. That’s where you decide to get on the MDH, or take the long route on the Long X Trail head that loops back around to the MDH.  We chose the loop of the two and we think you will like it, too.

It runs along the south side of the Little Missouri River, across from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I first tackled the trail in about 1998.  It hasn’t changed much since then, but it is better marked.

It still takes you deep in to the Badlands Interior.

This time of year, the road is in good shape and the valley is green.  It looks like this when you drive in to the valley:

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Options on the Long X Trail

Once you get on the Long X Trail you have options. 

On a hot day, it’s nice to stroll through the cool trees.

In fact, that’s how you access the coolest, most private, most exclusive campsite.


Homer’s Campsite. It’s hidden in the trees along the river.  A fire ring, picnic table and quiet are all available. To camp there, you have to pack in your gear — AND pack it out.  That includes your trash.  Go ahead and spend a bit of time sitting and watching, reflecting and if you wish, meditating.


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If you’re familiar with summer grasses and trees, you know they are home to wood ticks.  

So, wear light-colored clothing and you can spot the little buggers crawling up your pant leg.

After you get out of the trees and down the trail, make your own shortcuts, or follow the path.  You’ll probably want to follow the path to get down in to the creek bed and across.

Along the way, walk over and examine petrified forest remains. 

Or find a cool little hill to block the wind or sun to enjoy a snack.  But please don’t litter.  I often come back from a hike with other people’s trash.


Bike the Long X Trail

Bicyclists, we found, like the Long X trail for a couple reasons.  One is, that it is close to Watford City and other towns. So, after work, people take their bicycles to the trail for an evening ride, like this fellow:

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They like it because it is not too rugged, not too long, not too hilly.  It’s just right!


It’s not 140 miles

And so she said, “I like it. Next time, lets take the loop from the other direction, start with Maah Daah Hey, and end up on Long X.”

“Yeah but, that’s 6 miles!”

“Oh well, she said. That’s better than 140 miles.”

And so we shall.

In the meantime, we have pulled together a set of Badlands adventures and explorations. They’re sure to ease the stress of these days.

Coming up, we’ll tell you about one or two more of the attractions on our list of 10.

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Where is the Long X Trail?
Along the southside of the Little Missouri River across from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit.

How can I follow the Long X Trail?
Follow the tall wooden posts with the top cut at an angle, marked with an X with one leg extra long.

What do I need to take with me to hike the Long X Trail?
Water. Lots of water.  Sunscreen.  Insect repellent.  (The wood ticks are hungry.)