Going Maah Way?
One hundred miles of spectacular Badlands scenery, endless skies, frequent wildlife sightings, and some of the best and most challenging mountain biking terrain anywhere (yes, including even Moab, Utah [see ])—yet amazingly, even some avid bikers have never even heard of the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota. That’s changing fast, however, now that the ride has been granted Epic status by the International Mountain Biking Association.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail is cobbled together from a number of different landowners, including the Little Missouri National Grasslands, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, state-owned land, and private property. The trail head is found in Sully Creek State Recreation Area near Medora; from there, the narrow single-track trail travels northward to the U.S. Forest Service’s CCC Campground near Watford City. Most tour operators leave from Bismark or from the Dakota Cyclery (www.dakotacyclery.com) in Medora, which is also an ideal place to pick up maps and check current trail conditions.
It’s not called the Badlands for nothing, and bikers should be prepared for extreme conditions. Water is scarce, so bring extra and use water filters to make safe what little water is available on the trail. Rainy weather turns the trail to mud—the thick, heavy kind that sticks to shoes and tires. And with plenty of cactus around, there’s no shortage of sharp needles to puncture tires, so consider investing in a good-quality patch kit as well as extra inner tubes. One extra note of caution: There are cattle all along this trail, so watch out for cow chips.
Though the trail is long, one need not conquer its entire length to experience the rugged beauty of this region—though you may be tempted to go the distance, given the dramatic landscape and the frequent encounters with wildlife such as bison, golden eagles, mule deer, and coyotes. Bikers who do opt for a longer journey will find primitive campgrounds along the route. More adventurous souls may want to investigate the ice caves that are a short detour off the main trail; ask locally for directions. —ML
When to Go: May–Sept.
Bismarck, ND (130 miles/209km).
$$ Best Western Doublewood Inn, 1400 E. Interchange Ave., Bismarck ( 701/258-7000; www.bestwesternnorthdakota.com). $$ Eagle Ridge Lodge, 3653 W. River Rd., Medora ( 866/863-2453 or 701/623-2216; www.eagleridgelodge.com).