Maah Daah Hey Trail

Length: 
96-145 miles

Can anyone argue with over 100 miles of gorgeous singletrack? The grasslands and badlands of North Dakota set the stage for this trail, whose popularity is quickly growing, but stymied by its isolation. The trail has a good mix of challenging, technical single track across the rugged badlands and easy cruising along the flat, grassy tablelands.

This trail rocks! Here is a world-class trail, mostly excellent singletrack, running through shockingly beautiful and remote country. You will appreciate the amazing diversity of terrain. The trail tops eroded ridges, then rockets down canyons and drops through forested coulees or across a grassy hill or valley. The trail is hidden away in remote Western North Dakota, so it has yet to become as popular as other world class trails. Once you get a few miles North of Medora, you can often ride all day without meeting another group.

The Maah-Daah-Hey trail itself was completed in 1998, although the four campsites that are located along the trail were not completed until 2002. Check the detailed descriptions linked below for additional campground information. This trail is a 100 mile trail which runs through the rough North Dakota badlands between the North and South units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In most places the trail is well marked with wooden "turtle" posts and is obvious. In other places, markers are somewhat scarce, and the trail itself disappears into a pasture or sidehill. Order a map from the column on the right and make sure you have it with you. Generally however, the trail is obvious and easy to follow. An introductory trail guide (see image on right) is available on-line in Acrobat .pdf format from the National Park Service site, and detailed trail descriptions, topographic and 3-D maps and elevation profiles are available on this site (see links below).

This is one of the finest trails I have ridden.
- quote from MTBR

If it has been raining before your ride and the trail is wet, wait. If it looks like it will rain during your ride, wait. When wet, these trails are unrideable. Within 50 feet, your bike tires will be the size of your leg and weigh 25 pounds each. After you carry a bike with tires this large over your shoulder for several miles, slipping with each step, you will wish you had never heard of mountain bikes.

Every bluff we climbed offered a different vista than the one before, in fact the whole trail was surprisingly unpredictable.
- quote from MTBR

Bring several extra inner tubes, a patch kit, a tire pump, the necessary tire changing tools, and possibly even a spare tire. Sharp rocks are a small problem, but cactus are everywhere. Slime your tires. If you don't you WILL have a flat as a result of riding this trail, if not while on the trail, then within the next few days. Multiple flats are common during one day, and it is not uncommon for both tires to go at the same time. Plan on it.

If you need shuttle service, two possibilities are Dakota Cyclery and Little Knife Outfitters, Box 82, Watford City, ND 58854, 1-800-438-6905. Little Knife Outfitters and Dakota Cyclery also have mountain bike rentals. The Dakota Cyclery Mountain Bike Adventure store in Medora is a full service shop, and carries tires, tubes, derailleurs, cables, cassettes, wheels, chains, nutrition bars and gels, eyewear, sunscreen, gloves, helmets, shorts and jerseys, tools, and hydration packs. Dakota Cyclery / Mountain Bike Adventures has an interesting service where they drop off your stuff at designated spots in locked trailers and you just carry the key.

Before Hiking the Trail and for more information, trail updates, and maps, contact the USDA Forest Service Medora Ranger District at (701) 225-5151 or the McKenzie Ranger District at (701) 842-2393.

For information on Theodore Roosevelt National Park, contact the South Unit at (701) 623-4466 or the North Unit at (701) 842-2333.

For information on Sully Creek State Park call (701) 328-5357.

Matthew Evans did the trip in June 2007 and gives us some advice:

The trail doesn't look well worn here

Water Water Water... Depending in the strength of your group, you could be out there for 6 or 7 hours, you'll need all the water you can carry. That said, I strongly recommend that someone in your group bring a charcoal filter, that way you can replenish your water at cattle stock tanks or in the rivers. We did this on several occasions, the day it was 98° I went through 2 camelbacks & 4 water bottles, I would have become severly dehydrated without the extra water from the filter. Obviously don't drink any water that hasn't been filtered!! Water at the campgrounds was fine to drink. At the start we dedicated one cooler completely to ice and that lasted for a few days.

Handheld GPS was helpful on one or two occasions but by no means is required. It can be easy to lose the trail as the cattle and rancher paths criss cross the actual trail.

Sunscreen! There is no place to hide out there and very little shade, we made sure to apply twice a day, nothing worse than laying in a tent all sunburned.

Water level was higher than usual summer 2007

I purchased a campground shower for the trip. WHAT A GREAT PURCHASE!!!, none of the campgrounds have showers and good hygiene is important in order to avoid saddle sores, etc. Don't forget the chamois cream.

Amazingly, None of us had any flats on the trip. We used slime tubes, [and maybe as a result] cactus, etc. didn't seem to be much of a problem.

We sent 2 people down to the next campground in the morning with the vehicles and they started riding the trail backwards. We met on the trail and then continued on together. This is a great way to not have to do any shuttling after the ride.

You're going to enjoy and not want to come back off the trail!

Thanks Matthew!

Links:

I finally rode the trail August 4-5 2007. Here are some notes I made:

The trail was beautiful and almost all singletrack. There are signs of regular maintenance. The park service told me they hire 20 people a summer to work full-time on the trail!

The trail is not technical, and there were hardly any rocks or roots. I did it on a rigid bike, and the only place i missed suspension was where cattle had done a lot of post-holing in mud that had now dried into hard, rough, palm busting dirt. That was unpleasant.

The trail is really well marked: there are wooden post markers every couple hundred feet. The top of the post is cut at an angle, and the marker angles down towards trail. You will make wrong turns, and sometimes not know which way to go, but you just keep going until you see a marker, or realize you're not seeing them any more and have left the trail. Each marker is supposed to be visible from the prior. I saw few exceptions to that.

There are tons of oil field service roads that even a 2WD sedan can drive. A support vehicle can easily meet you each evening and lunch, and occasional other breaks. The Trails Illustrated map of the Theodore Roosevelt Park is particularly good for support vehicle drivers. The roads are marked reasonably well for driver's, but the name of the road isn't marked at the trail crossing.

It was quite windy on top of the mesas, and occasionally really hot in depressed areas without a breeze. The temperature difference was significantly different when the breeze disappeared.

We saw poison ivy pretty regularly, but the crew ended up with more insect bites than poison ivy.

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