“93 miles of North Dakota singletrack through painted buttes and tall grass prairies
— Leslie Kehmeier
There are a handful of water crossings, mostly across smaller creeks throughout the Maah Daah Hey route. There is one major crossing of the Little Missouri River between Elkhorn and Magpie campgrounds. The water level depends on the time of year.
The Maah Daah Hey is one of the jewels of North Dakota open space. As it follows the Little Missouri, the trail blends difficult climbs up the bentonite buttes with challenging downhills. Beautiful vistas abound. Also known as the MDH, this long-distance route is best enjoyed as a multi-day adventure.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail is located between Medora and Watford City, North Dakota, approximately 40 miles from Dickinson Municipal Airport and 140 miles from the state capital of Bismarck.
The trail connects the north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park across the Little Missouri Grasslands. Mountain bikers are required to ride alternate routes through the sections of the MDH that cross through National Park lands.
The MDH is broken down into five sections, each anchored by campgrounds along the route: Buffalo Gap to Wannagan, Wannagan to Elkhorn, Elkhorn to Magpie, Magpie to Bennett, Bennet to CCC.
For those who plan to support themselves with a vehicle on the Maah Daah Hey, it's best to identify contact points for each day's ride to refuel the group with food and water. This will require some planning to navigate the surrounding rural road system. Most roads are passable by two-wheel drive vehicles, although high-clearance is recommended. Consult a copy of the Little Missouri National Grassland's map for a support vehicle strategy.
Need to Know
The Maah Daah Hey is a shared-use trail, enjoyed by cyclists, equestrians and hikers. However, due to its remoteness, it requires total self-sufficiency. Be prepared with your own water, food and maps. Be prepared to employ your route-finding and navigation skills.
The route described here follows the Maah Daah Hey from south to north, through established campgrounds.
Buffalo Gap to Wannagan
Start at the Buffalo Gap campground and ride generally northeast following the buffalo-head posts. This section of the Maah Daah Hey Epic is a great way to start as it is open and rolling through wide open territory. Closer to Wannagan there is one creek crossing that may require portage. A short connector trail accesses the Wannagan campground from the main trail.
Wannagan to Elkhorn
Climb up on the Wannagan connector and stay left to continue the MDH north. This section to Elkhorn climbs and descends through several drainages, crossing small mesa-tops along the way.
Elkhorn to Magpie
The Elkhorn to Magpie section includes the crossing of the Little Missouri River. If water levels are high, consider a long vehicle shuttle around to the east side of the river.
This part of the MDH also includes a longer climb along a ridge to Devil's Pass, an area that has awesome 360-degree views of the badlands landscape.
Magpie to Bennett
Riding from Magpie to Bennet will take you out of the painted buttes and back into the grassland. Settle in for some nice riding through wide-open meadows surrounded by small mesas. Stay right on Bennett Creek to access the Bennett campground.
Bennett to CCC
Bennett to CCC campground is the northern-most part of the MDH. It's also the most rugged with climbs, descents and more unrefined singletrack. The China Wall crossing is especially scenic, traveling through some unique geology.
This section approaching the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park requires a detour that is hard to find. Check with the National Park Service or a local shop before riding this part of the MDH.