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U.S. Forest Service

Northern Region Viewing Area


View from the Maah Daah Hey Trail overlooking the Little Missouri River. View from the Maah Daah Hey Trail overlooking the Little Missouri River.

field of echinacea growing on the prairie. A field of echinacea growing on the prairie.

Maah Daah Hey Trail/CCC Campground

Forest: Dakota Prairie Grasslands

District: McKenzie Ranger District

Description: The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a 96 mile long recreational trail that traverses the rugged badlands and rolling prairie of western North Dakota. The trail is nationally recognized as a premier backpacking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trial. The present-day badlands contain bands of lignite coal and petrified trees plus fossils of freshwater clams, snails, crocodile, turtle, and champsosaur that indicate a wetter climate and changing past environments. After the ice retreated from the glacial period, the Little Missouri River’s new course followed a steep route, and it began to cut deeply into the land. Slicing easily through the soft sedimentary rocks, the river and its tributaries carved the fantastically broken topography that is today’s badlands. The rolling prairie and badlands are home to a great variety of plants. Rainfall, scant though it is, nourishes the grasses that cover the lands. When the wildflowers bloom, they add their vibrant colors to the reds, browns, and greens of the earth and grasses. For those looking for a shorter stroll, a majority of the fauna of the Little Missouri National Grasslands can be found within one mile of the campground.

Safety First: Be sure to bring water and wear appropriate outdoor gear including boots or good hiking shoes and a hat. Don’t forget bug spray and sunscreen as well as a camera. Be alert for prairie rattlesnakes. They are common throughout the badlands and prairie. Ticks are common in the spring and early summer. Poison ivy occurs along the trail, mostly in brushy areas. Uncommon, but present are mountain lions and if hiking through the portion in the national park be aware that bison are present.

Directions: The northern trailhead is accessed at the CCC Campground, which is located 15 miles south of Watford City, North Dakota. Travel south of the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park on highway US 85 and take the westbound scoria road immediately south of the Little Missouri River bridge. CCC campground is approximately ¾ mile from the highway. The trailhead is located on the west side of the campground.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Dakota Prairie Grasslands, McKenzie Ranger District (701) 842-2393.

Closest Town: Watford City, North Dakota.