Maah Daah Hey
One hundred miles of singletrack trails, called the Maah Daah Hey Trail connects the northern and southern units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, outside of Medora, North Dakota.
Part of the Missouri River Plateau, the Badlands of North Dakota were formed by thousands of small streams working their way through hundreds of feet of sediment over millions of years. The trail takes us across the grasslands on top of the mesas and then dips and dives in and out of the canyons.
Because we've been guiding this trail since its creation we've been able to watch the trail evolve from a rugged new adventure route to a well worn singletrack, thanks to thousands of knobby tires. Singletrack mountain biking experience is necessary to have fun out there, in addition to an adventurous attitude and a willingness to explore new territory. Need more details? Give us a call at 800-845-2453.
After meeting in Bismarck, we will shuttle west and north to the heart of the North Dakota Badlands. Here we will unload our bikes and ride a short doubletrack before we hit the Maah Daah Hey Trail. China Wall is our initiation to the trail’s exposure as it cuts through the colorful slopes of the badlands. A sweeping downhill and a couple of tight switchbacks deliver us to our lunch spot. The name of the trail comes from a Mandan Indian phrase that means “an area that has been or will be around for a long time,” and it has also been interpreted to mean “grandfather” in the Mandan language. The trail is marked with large posts emblazoned with a turtle, symbolizing firm determination, steadfastness, patience, long life and fortitude—all good qualities that will come in handy along the way. We’ll continue riding through intermittent sections of grasslands and exposed rock formations as we make our way up and over the short but challenging climbs. We’ll camp tonight on a beautiful grassy knoll. TOTAL MILEAGE: 14 miles
After a hearty breakfast we will head out through the rolling hills, passing the roaming cattle and prairie dogs. After each small granny gear grunt we are rewarded by an equally twisty downhill. The badlands were formed by the cutting action of thousands of small streams and rivulets over millions of years. The water travels through layers of fine grain clays and silts of every imaginable color. From short-grass prairie to sagebrush hillsides to small forests, today we will get a sampling of the badlands scenery first hand. Our route takes us through 20 miles of remote singletrack as we head south towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We’ll stop and explore a bluff where we’ll find intact seashells and crustaceans, evidence of the 70 million year old seabed deposit. Back on the main trail, some sections are smooth and buffed while others are wild and rugged, but you’re assuredly always going up or down. Today’s cumulative climbing is about 1,200 feet with the final hurrah just before camp. Tonight’s camp is perched atop the famous Devil’s Pass, a narrow wall of clay dropping away sharply on both sides. TOTAL MILEAGE: 25 miles
Today is the big day, which we’ll start with an eye widening ride across Devil’s Pass. Many of the original roads through this twisty turny section were created for the extraction of natural gas. From Devil’s Pass, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is carved tightly into the hillside. Through many turns and switchbacks, the trail eventually leads us right to the banks of the Little Missouri River. The river is usually just a trickle at this point, but it’s still a little too deep to ride, so a refreshing wade across cools us off before we climb back up through the riverside bluffs. We’ll have a hawk’s eye view of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch site, established in 1884. The ranching efforts failed when harsh winters doomed the cattle and the ranch was converted to a hunting lodge. As we descend, the trail is etched into the off camber bluff, reinforcing the “look where you want to go” technique. We’ll have lunch in a shady grove and fuel up for more great singletrack this afternoon. We camp tonight on a beautiful promontory overlooking the badlands. We call it the “Sound of Music” camp. TOTAL MILEAGE: 24 miles
Today brings us to our favorite section of the Maah Daah Hey. We’ll ride south through prickly peared valleys and more badlands landscape. We’ll climb some steep switchbacks and get a great view of the colors of sediment. 70 million years ago, this region was a vast inland sea which deposited sediment and laid down the many colored layers visible in the landscape. Wind, water and erosion have created the jagged buttes, rolling hillsides and rugged rock formations. The red sediment, called scoria, that we see from our vantage point is the result of underground coal fires. After lunch we continue south on the trail until we are just north of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Here we say goodbye to the Maah Daah Hey and hop on the Buffalo Gap Trail to circumnavigate the park. Tonight’s camp is called the Camel Hump Camp and we’ll likely hear coyotes howling from the adjacent ridge. TOTAL MILEAGE: 23 miles
Our last day takes us further south through some really fun sections of the Buffalo Gap Trail. Some of the formations are like giant sandcastles with the trail swooping right around them. On occasion, we have seen whole herds of antelope blasting through this area at break neck speeds. With full trail grins on our faces we’ll ride a few road miles right into the historic town of Medora.It is funny to think of what Teddy and his Rough Riders would have thought of the likes of us. TOTAL MILEAGE: 12 - 15 miles
This tour contains riding on narrow technical trails. Singletrack experience is highly recommended. We will be without vehicle support during all of the singletrack sections of the ride. Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventure.
Riding Surface: Rough singletrack through grass and clay.
Overall Rating: Intermediate/Advanced
Technical Difficulty: Moderate with advanced moments
Physical Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Altitude: 1,000 - 2,500 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.