Where does the trail begin and end?

The north end of the Maah Daah Hey 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. The Deuce Trail begins here, and goes 49 miles south to Burning Coal Vein Campground.

Where did the trail get its name?

The trail name, "Maah Daah Hey", comes from the Mandan Hidatsa Indians. Tribal member Gerard Baker of the Mandan Hidatsa developed this name for the trail.  In the Mandan Hidatsa language, one word or phrase can describe a picture, feeling, or situation. In this case, the phrase means "Grandfather" or "an area that has been or will be around for a long time." The trail system uses a turtle as the trail marker. The turtle was a symbol of the Lakota Sioux tribe, and was honored because of its firm determination, steadfastness, patience, long life, and fortitude. "The Deuce" was named by Medora District Ranger Scot Fitzwilliams and was designed as an southern extension of the Maah Daah Hey Trail to Amidon, after a meeting with the Slope County commissioners, who asked for a trail into the Slope County seat at Amidon.

What types of wildlife can I see on the trail?

This area of North Dakota provides prime habitat for a variety of mammals and birds. Mule and whitetail deer, antelope, wild turkeys, beaver, prairie dogs, and coyotes are often sighted, while an occasional golden eagle, red tail hawk, 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.

What are the conditions like on the trail?

The trail is open for use all year to non-motorized uses, 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 system 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.

How I can I determine if the rivers are passable?

To find the real time flow data on the Little Missouri River, log on to, 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 increases the hazard. I believe that bikers or hiker would not be able to cross at anywhere near that depth.

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 Maah Daah Hey Trail 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 not dependable. The Deuce Trail does not have springs, dams, etc along the route. Eight water cache sites have been added to the trail by the MDHTA and other volunteer groups. Remember – the most foolproof plan, especially for hikers, is to cache water before your trip.

Is certified weed seed free hay required on the Dakota Prairie Grassland?

Yes! Certified weed seed free hay is required. A good start for locating certified weed seed free hay is to visit the North Dakota Department of Agriculture Weed Seed Free Forage Program website. This is a state-wide program conducted by the ND Dept of Agriculture. If you are looking for local sources of weed seed free sources select the following counties on the ND Dept of Agriculture website. Counties (county seat) which the trail traverses are Billings (Medora) and Slope (Amidon).  Nearby Counties (county seat) are Adams (Hettinger), Bowman (Bowman), Golden Valley (Beach), Hettinger (Mott), McKenzie (Watford City), and Stark (Dickinson).

Where can I purchase a map of the trail?

The maps are available in both a paper and plastic coat version at any USDA Forest Service office, or through our organization, through purchase or a download of the GPS map.

Is dangerous wildlife a concern on the trail?

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.


  • 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 South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park boundary for cyclists.
  • Camping is prohibited on private and state land.
  • Users must stay on the trail when crossing 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.


The NDAWN weather sites provide weather data from automated weather stations located near the following towns. Historical weather data (older than 24 hours) can be obtained at the NDAWN website. A weather summary since midnight for today along with current weather, updated every 10 minutes, can be viewed on your computer or smartphone. Nearby weather stations are: Beach, Bowman, Dickinson, Sidney, and Watford City

Area Webcams

Webcam at Painted Canyon, Roosevelt National Park The 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.


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