It’s nice to know that there are some successful trail stories out there. It’s even better to find one in the Great Plains! The Maah Daah Hey National Recreation Trail in western North Dakota is one such success story. The trail is 96 miles long, and connects the north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park through the Little Missouri National Grassland. The scenery is stunning as the trail passes through badlands and steep, eroded canyons. High points on the trail offer spectacular sweeping views of the surrounding plains. The trail is non-motorized and is popular with hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. Mountain biking is not permitted in the national park itself, but the rest of the trail is open to bikes.
The trail was first conceived in the late 1960s, but construction of the trail did not begin until 1995. The trail was completed in 1999, and represents a coalition of four main groups: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Dakota Prairie National Grasslands, North Dakota Parks and Recreation, and the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association. It is truly a gem of North Dakota and the state is proud to have it.
I’m excited to see a long distance trail like this succeeed in the Great Plains. It gives me hope (not to mention a good model to follow) that the Great Plains Trail can expand on the vision and the example that the Maah Daah Hey Trail has set. Incidentally, Maah Daah Hey is a Mandan term that means “an area that has been or will be around for a long time.” Well, the Great Plains have indeed been around for a very long time, so let’s hope the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota is around for a long time to come!
p.s. At this time, the Great Plains Trail does not have a plan to connect with the Maah Daah Hey Trail, but as the trail plan develops, perhaps an eastern spur could extend north from the Black Hills of South Dakota to include this trail. All options remain on the table. Stay tuned . . .