One of the things Barry really wanted to do during our time in North Dakota was to ride a portion of the Maah Daah Hey Trail. "Maah Daah Hey" is a phrase used by the Mandan Indians meaning "a place that has been and will be here a long time." It is a long (over 100 miles) singletrack trail that begins south of Theodore Roosevelt NP and extends all the way to the northern section of the park. (Of course we only rode a small portion of it!) The trail is shared with equestrians and hikers and no mountain biking is allowed within the park boundaries, so we picked it up south of Medora after a short ride from town.
We headed south once we accessed the trail at MM 5.
There were several creek crossings early on -- nothing too wide, deep, or muddy, fortunately. It's difficult to clean the bikes when traveling, so it's best to keep them as clean as possible. Love this action shot Barry snapped.
We are singletrack novices, so on this moderate trail with some challenging climbs, we walked some and both took a couple of slow-speed tumbles (no injuries). But it was beautiful, fun, and we didn't see another soul the entire time. Wow! If you love singletrack, you owe it to yourself to get to North Dakota and ride this trail!
As we headed south, the scenery got even more rugged and dramatic. It was hard to believe we had this all to ourselves! We did this ride on a Monday; I expect it would be more well-used on the weekends.
After climbing and then descending, we were rewarded with some flat riding as we approached the river. We were able to fly on this part.
But when we reached this deep, alluvial sand by the Little Missouri, we couldn't even ride. This part of the trail is used mostly by people on horseback.
To access the Sully Creek State Park campground on the other side, horses can make this river crossing. Sometimes even hikers and mountain bikers can manage it, but the river was too high for us to get across on this day. From what I read, it's been a wetter than normal year in North Dakota.
After turning around and backtracking through the deep sand, we spied a gravel road we could take part of the way back. Although there were some long climbs, it was faster and easier than singletrack.
We made a turn and found ourselves on the Custer Trail. The views of the Badlands were gorgeous.
Barry had been looking for the trail marker for the Buffalo Gap Trail as he wanted to ride at least a part of it. Finally, he spied it! This trail allows mountain bikers to skirt around the Theodore Roosevelt National Park to access the Maah Daah Hey again farther north, since biking on the trail within park boundaries is forbidden.
He went for a short ride on it while I caught my breath! He proclaimed it a wonderful trail. I hope we'll be able to come back to this area and ride more one day.
The end of our ride was interesting. We got to a point in the road where we had to make a choice. One option was to turn back down the gravel road (Custer Trail) and take the Buffalo Gap Trail to the Maah Daah Hey, then the Maah Daah Hey back to where we originally accessed it. This option would have been maybe six miles of riding, most of them on singletrack, and a lot of hills.
The other option was riding on the Interstate for one mile. In the west, bikes are allowed on certain interstates because there just aren't that many roads. We had already seen cyclists riding on I-94 so knew that it was allowed. I was initially nervous about riding on an interstate, but as it was getting late in the day, and I wasn't sure I had much more singletrack riding left in me, I chose I-94. I am sure Barry wanted to ride back on the trails, but he was thoughtful enough to let me decide. Thanks hon! Fortunately, the shoulder was wide, and we only had to travel about a mile downhill. It was fun!
After taking the exit, we had to deal with some pretty intense headwinds to make it back to our parking place at Chimney Park, a small park in Medora. All in all, it was a great day for a wonderfully varied bike ride!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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