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Teddy Roosevelt called this the “land of vast, silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stares.” To truly appreciate his sentiments, follow this 16-mile tour through the badlands in his namesake national park’s North Unit. Bison, coyotes, and prairie dog colonies enliven the trek through tangled cottonwood forest and austere clay buttes. It’ll take more than a filter to make the “Little Misery” Little Missouri River potable, so carry all the water you’ll need.
Contact: North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, (701) 842-2333; www.nps.gov/thro.
Maah Daah Hey Trail
This 96-mile trail’s name is the Mandan term for “grandfather” and its marker is the sign of the turtle, the symbol of long life. The trail connects the North and South Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Sully Creek State Park by winding through the Little Missouri National Grassland and historic Elkhorn Ranch, the site of Roosevelt’s original homestead. Come prepared to ford the Little Missouri River.
Contact: McKenzie Ranger District, (701) 842-2393 (northern part) or Medora Ranger District, (701) 225-5151 (southern part), Little Missouri National Grassland; www.fs.fed.us/r1/dakotaprairie.
Jones Creek-Paddock Creek Trails Loop
Third place in our North Dakota tally went to “Badlands,” and the baddest clay erosion pinnacles North Dakota has to offer are along the 12-mile loop of the Jones Creek and Paddock Creek Trails in Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s southern unit.
Contact: South Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, (701) 623-4466; www.nps.gov/thro.