Retrace Pioneers' Footsteps on the Sheyenne National Grassland

Explore a disappearing landscape in North Dakota.
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Explore a disappearing landscape in North Dakota.
Sheyenne Sand Prairie

Sheyenne National Grassland

I sit against a gnarled oak, resting my eyes on the prairie I waded through to get here. A gentle wind passes through the tan-and-green grasses, and suddenly it looks less North Dakota than a vast ocean, the prairie swelling and glimmering in the breeze. I walked just 5.3 miles to reach this spot, but out here, remoteness isn’t measured in miles. The terrain here is untamed, unmanicured, and wild.

From the North Country trailhead

Pick up the North Country National Scenic Trail and follow it 2.7 miles west to a junction.

Veer north (hiker’s right) onto an unnamed trail (it appears on topos) and follow it through hilly, short-grass prairie to another intersection at mile 4.5.

Split west (hiker’s left) onto another unnamed trail (also on maps) and take it .8 mile to its end at Mirror Pool .

Retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Mirror Pool (mile 5.3)

There are no designated backcountry campsites in Sheyenne National Grassland, but dispersed camping is permitted. We like the spot amid a grove of gnarled oaks that overlooks the prairie for its obvious views, but the easy walk to water is hard to beat in these parts: It’s less than a quarter mile to aptly-named Mirror Pool.


White-tail deer, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, and pheasants live here
year-round. Scan for eagles and red-tail hawks floating—and hunting—
on thermals overhead, and listen for coyote yips at night.


Sheyenne National Grassland is one of the country’s few remaining tracts of oak savannah, a mixture of grass prairie and small stands of oak (usually burr). Most were plowed for farmland in the 19th and 20th centuries, but this one preserves a 70,180-acre swath, which is critical habitat for several threatened and endangered species, such as the Dakota skipper and regal fritillary butterflies.

DO IT Trailhead 46.523431, -97.203324; 46 miles southwest of Fargo on 153rd Ave. SE Season Year-round Permit None Custom map ($15) Contact 

Trip stats
Distance: 10.6 miles (out & back)

Time: 2 days

Difficulty: 1.5 stars

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