General Trail Information  

The north end of the trail begins at the US Forest Service CCC Campground in McKenzie County, located 20 miles south of Watford City, off Highway 85. The 97 mile trail then winds its way to its southern terminus at Sully Creek State Park in Billings County, south of Medora.

Four fenced overnight campsites with hitching posts, vault toilets, and campfire rings are available along the trail. The Buffalo Gap Trail, a bike bypass trail around the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is scheduled to be completed in 2002.

The trail name, "Maah Daah Hey", comes from the Mandan Indians. In the Mandan language, one word or phrase can describe a picture, feeling, or situation. In this case, the phrase means "an area that has been or will be around for a long time."  The trail uses a turtle as the trail marker. The turtle was honored because of its firm determination, steadfastness, patience, long life, and fortitude.

The trail traverses an area of highly dissected badlands surrounded by large expanses ofgently rolling prairie. This area of North Dakota provides prime habitat for a variety of mammals and birds. Mule deer and coyotes are often sighted, while an occasional golden eagle or prairie falcon may be spotted soaring above. Bighorn sheep and elk have been reintroduced into the area and can be spotted by keen observers. In addition, bison and feral horses roam the range in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The trail is open for use all year,but at various times of the year,the trail may be impassable due to snow, ice, high water, and mud.  Users of the Maah Daah Hey Trail share the same space with horseback riders, hikers, and bicyclists. Users are expected to respect the rights of others. Shared-use trails are successful when users cooperate and abide by the rules.
To find the real time flow data on the Little Missouri River, log on to the listed site, hold your mouse pointer over your chosen location, wait a second, and the data will appear.  If you choose Marmarth, then Medora, then Watford City, you will know whether the river is rising or falling.  Remember the river flows from Marmarth towards Watford, so if the river is at 1 foot at Marmarth, 2 feet at Medora, and 3 feet at Watford, it is falling, and if reversed is going to rise.  As we receive more input from users we will let you know how that data translates into your ability to cross both at Sully and near Elkhorn.  A group of us did cross on horseback, at Sully, when the river was at 4.17 feet, and I would not recommend it.  I believe that any reading over 3 feet requires a very experienced horse and rider.  There are developing sink holes and a very strong current carrying objects at great speed towards you that increase the hazard.  I believe that bikers or hiker would not be able to cross at anywhere near that depth, but will update as users help us correlate the flow data with actual crossing experiences.   

  Frequently Asked Questions  
  • Is water available along the trail?
    Each campground on the trail has hand pumped potable water throughout the season.   The campgrounds are 18 or more miles apart so plan accordingly.  The Forest Service MaahDaahHey Map shows locations of springs, dams, dugouts, and stock tanks.  This water is not certified as potable, and may be difficult to filter.  Some of these sites are undependable.  The most foolproof plan, especially for hikers, is to cache water before your trip.
  • Is certified weed free hay required on the Dakota Prairie Grassland? 
    Yes, certified weed free hay is required.  As locations become available to purchase this hay, we will provide that information on this website.
  • Where can I purchase a map of the trail?
    The maps are available in both a paper and plastic coat version at any ND Forest Service office, or through our organization, use the contact us page.
  • Is the trail marked through GPS?
    The US Forest Service Dakota Prairie Grasslands has marked the entire trail with GPS coordinates, but that data is not available at this time.  As soon as our mapping pages are completed we plan to have that data available through this site.
  • What is the status of MaahDaahHey Trail two?
    Construction will start this season on this trail.  Throughout this season, marker posts will be set, self closing gates installed, and construction of trail through difficult areas will be started.  Plans are to do a portion at each end, so the middle of the trail may be difficult to navigate, especially because of fencing.  Until usage creates a trail imprint, long areas of this trail will require navigating by the trails line of site posts, on a mostly grass surface.  We will update this site as construction progresses.
  • Is wildlife a concern on the trail, especially mountain lions and rattlesnakes?
    While mountain lions are receiving a lot of attention, sightings are vary rare.  You are much more likely to see buffalo (within the national park), and other small potentially bothersome animals such as skunks and porcupines.  If you are concerned, do research these animals before you go on the trail.  In general to avoid all wildlife, make noise.  A bell, especially for hikers, will generally move most animals away.   If an animal is encountered, retreat "big".  Move away quickly but do not run, continue to face the animal, and yell, lift arms, look and act big.  As for snakes, noise will help, along with being aware of the times when they are most likely to be warming themselves on the trail.  Snakes will normally not go after you, they simply strike when surprised.  If you step near a snake, jump away quickly, you do not need to retreat very far, then work your way around that spot.  If you like to leave the trail, be aware of their potential hiding places, hunting areas, and warming areas, and be cautious, you are in their habitat.
  Trail Regulations  
  • The trails are closed to all motorized vehicles.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on the Maah Daah Hey trail as it passes through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The Buffalo Gap Trail is an alternative route around the park boundary for cyclists.
  • Camping is prohibited on private and state land.
  • Close any gates that you open.
  • Stock users must use weed seed free hay or feed in order to reduce the risk of exotic/noxious plant introduction.
  • Artifacts and other cultural features are protected by Federal Law. DO NOT COLLECT OR DISTURB.
  • Pack out all trash and other materials. Burying trash is prohibited.
  • Do NOT wash dishes or use detergents in water sources.
  • For proper sanitation make toilets in a shallow hole 200 feet or more from camp, water sources, and trail.
  • For your safety, DO NOT APPROACH OIL AND GAS FACILITIES; poison gases may be present.
  • Users must stay on the trail when crossing private and state land.
  Area Weather Information  
  NDAWN weather sites.  Provides weather data from automated weather stations located in nearby towns.

Provides historic weather data and is updated daily.  Real time information is available by phone for the following locations.  Though these automated weather sites are not on the trail they can provide an idea as to weather conditions in the immediate area.

Beach – 701-872-3016
Bowman – 701-523-3380
Dickinson – 701-483-2097
Sidney – 406-433-6657
Watford City – 701-842-4031

Weather data is provided in the following order; rainfall since midnight, yesterday’s rainfall, current air temperature, minimum air temperature since midnight, maximum air temperature since midnight, wind direction, wind speed, relative humidity, dew point, and bare soil temperature.  The caller can terminate the call at any time after the star (*) key is pressed. 

  Area Webcams  
  Webcam at Painted Canyon, Roosevelt National Park -

View of the badlands at Painted Canyon updated every 15 minutes.  Current weather conditions as well as air quality measurements are listed.   This webcam is about 10 miles east of the Maah Daah Hey trail.

  Emergency Contact Numbers  
  • 911
  • McKenzie County Sheriff - (701) 842-3654
  • Billings County Sheriff - (701) 623-4323
  • State Radio (Police) - 1-800-472-2121