Great Plains Trail Map

The map is finally here!!!!  I know what you’re thinking – what took you so long?! Never mind that.  It’s here!  I’ve posted it to the website, and here is a copy of that page with the link to the map below.  Please let me know in the comments section what you think, and what issues there may be with it.  (ps  I know about the gap near Santa Rosa, NM and I’m working to fix it).


Welcome to the Great Plains Trail Map! (Follow the link below to see the map).

This map represents the best routing to date for the entire length of the trail. That said, the route and the map will likely remain “works in progress” for quite some time to come. As the trail continues to grow and develop, there will be places where new routes will replace old ones. These new routes may serve to shorten distances, increase scenic value, reduce road travel, or create more trail.


If you’re planning a trip to the Great Plains Trail, whether for shorter section hikes, or especially for a longer thru hike, here are some things you’ll need to consider:


The Route: The Great Plains Trail is in most places, not an actual trail like most hikers are familiar with. It follows some sections of actual trail, but for a lot of reasons, must connect those sections with roads. Great care has been taken to use lightly traveled back roads as opposed to major highways. In some cases, larger highways are used because they are the only reasonable option in that area.


There are also some splits and spurs to be aware of. The GPT splits to follow either the Centennial Trail or the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are “connectors” to these two trails near the southern and northern ends. The GPT also splits at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. The best current route is to go through North Dakota as opposed to Montana due to the availability of towns and other amenities in North Dakota as opposed to the longer stretches between towns in Montana. It is the future goal of the GPT to connect to American Prairie Reserve in Montana, but for now, the route should be considered to be in North Dakota.


There are several spur trails on the GPT, all of them connect to state high points: Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. It should be noted that no foot or bike traffic is allowed in going to the Nebraska High Point because it’s on private land, and there is a bison herd nearby.


Usage: The GPT is open to hikers and bikers and horses except where bikes are not allowed such as wilderness areas and national parks.


Hazards: The list of things to watch out for is long. Some of the things to be aware of include, but are not limited to:


Wildlife (large): Bears, bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and more can be found at various points along the trail.


Wildlife (small): Snakes, spiders, ticks, and other insects are present across the length of the trail. Some species, such as the rattlesnake, can be dangerous.


Animals (domesticated): Cattle in open range can pose a significant hazard and care should be taken when walking through a herd of cows. In particular, bulls can be unpredictable and possibly aggressive. Dogs are present along many of the road sections and are unpredictable and possibly aggressive. Care should be exercised.


Plants: Some species of plants along the trail could cause allergic reactions.


Weather: Great Plains weather is well known to be highly changeable, and can turn deadly. Be sure to keep track of weather forecasts as much as possible.


Vehicles: Great care should be exercised on the road sections of the GPT where vehicles may be present.


Sun: Extreme exposure to sun is possible on the Great Plains Trail and proper clothing and sunscreen should be worn to protect yourself.


Water: There is very little potable water along the entire route of the GPT. The Great Plains is an arid place in general, and there are few (if any) natural sources of drinkable water. Water must be obtained in towns or in other developed areas.


Distances: Due to the difficulty of carrying water, the sometimes large distances between towns, and the lack of public lands in some areas, it is imperative that anyone planning a longer stretch of the GPT have some sort of vehicle support. (see below)



Vehicle Support: As noted above, there are a number of areas where vehicle support is strongly recommended for anyone planning a thru hike or a long section hike. These are areas where the distance between places one can legally spend the night are too far for someone to cover on foot in one day. With a few exceptions, this is the case on most of the southern half of the GPT. Vehicle support will be needed regularly in this region. The northern half generally requires less vehicle support, but it is still strongly recommended in some areas such as southern Nebraska, and northern South Dakota.   Have a solid plan in place if you’re going to be traveling in these areas.



Here’s the link to the map! Enjoy and let us know what you think.


Map of the Great Plains Trail


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Photo of the Week – August 11, 2016 — The Prairie Ecologist

I made a quick trip up to the Niobrara Valley Preserve this week. As always, there was a treasure trove of unexpected finds. Here are some of them. How many of you noticed the small larva in the above photo? I didn’t, until I was going through the photos on the computer the day after […]

via Photo of the Week – August 11, 2016 — The Prairie Ecologist

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Strider’s Final Journal Entry

From Guadalupe Peak to Canada, and no worse for the wear!

From Guadalupe Peak to Canada, and no worse for the wear!

I post Strider’s final journal entry in its entirety here.  It’s a fine read, and a nice closure of an epic adventure that took time, money, planning, and no small amount of gumption to execute.

Here’s to Strider!  The first ever thru hiker of the Great Plains Trail!

I’m up earlier than normal, maybe out of excitement, or disappointment that today is the last day of this journey. It’s barely light out when I get dropped off on the side of the road. It’s about 10 miles to the border from where I left off yesterday. I’m hiking along ND-8 and there’s not much traffic this morning, it makes for a nice quiet and pleasant hike. Right about halfway, I pass Northgate Dam Rec Site on my left. Just north of there I hear a vehicle approaching and it slows down and pulls alongside me. It’s a woman in a truck that saw me pass by from her kitchen window. She made me a bag lunch for the road and hands it to me now. I thank her for her kindness and she pulls off before I can get her name. Wow, what an amazing bit of magic.

A mile or so shy of the border Roxanne passes me in the car and jumps on ahead to the border station, waving as she passes by. Then it finally hits me, I’m almost done. This journey I’ve been on for the past 85 days will soon be over. I didn’t think it would happen this time around, but it does, and my eyes start to tear up. Despite my fears going into this hike it has turned out better than I ever could have hoped. As before on the NCT, meeting the people along the way has been the best part of this journey. I am still amazed how many kind people helped me along the way and were excited at the prospect of the trail. I will miss meeting people like Esther at the CO/NE line who helped me when I was in need, and people like Jerry up in the Oglalla Grasslands, when he decided to bring me dinner on the trail just to make my day better. I won’t be meeting any more people like Lynne or Lindsay, and the GPTA volunteers who took time out of their busy schedules to help me out in difficult spots, or folks like Willie with amazing life experiences to share stories with.
Every state along the Great Plains Trail also has some amazing scenery to offer and their own unique challenges, and I got to experience it all. From what I’ve seen the GPT is definitely worthy of being a National Scenic Trail if Steve and his board of directors decide that’s what they want for their trail.
Finally, as all these thoughts and memories run through my head I make it to the border and head on inside to the station. There are two officers on duty this morning, Roxanne is already inside talking to them. They ask a few basic questions about my journey and then give instructions on how to proceed to the Canadian side. I was worried that being in the middle of nowhere up here there wouldn’t be a sign at this crossing to welcome people into Canada, but there is one and we will need to cross briefly into Canada to get a photo in front of it. 
We make our way over to the other guard station. The Canadian officers are a bit more lively and seem genuinely happy for my accomplishment. The guy even stamps my passport as sort of a souvenir. I’ve been to Canada several times and never got it stamped so this is a treat. We explain that we’re just here to snap a photo in front of the sign and then we’ll be turning around and going back. He gives the go ahead and we walk the hundred or so feet to the sign, officially leaving North Dakota and the US and entering the province of Saskatchewan Canada. Here to welcome us is a big green sign and we snap a few photos in front of it. Then the officer comes outside and offers to take our picture in front of the sign. He snaps a few for us and we spend another five minutes or so taking various pictures from different angles, then finally turn to leave. I take one last glance at the surroundings before crossing back into the US. It’s no Lake Champlain here in Northgate Saskatchewan, but this area has it’s own beauty and I’m glad I got the chance to visit and briefly see it. 
Back in the US we load my gear into the car and begin the long road home. About two hours down the road is Lake Sakakawea State Park and the beginning of the North Country Trail, and we make sure to stop in and pay a visit for nostalgia’s sake. It’s been three years since we’ve both laid eyes on it and it’s a bit more lively with colors and not covered in snow. Just looking back on those three years, it’s amazing how much has changed in that short time. Hiking long distance trails has changed my life in many positive ways, and the GPT is no exception. I hope this idea takes hold and people embrace it and use it to preserve this piece of America that is often forgotten in the minds of many. I’m glad I made the decision to come out and hike this trail, despite the weird looks I got from some people when I told them my plan. I think deep down though, I knew that I was making the right choice and what I was doing was important somehow. After all, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Map in the Works

xBaDyw3l03U3mEQ3mlqy7mQtVPnX8AjAe5heeYSfQt8,zg-qSPBvVsnvpd5cH7wOBsB77tI8JyylNtOl-kU7DmkFollowing the excitement of the first thru hike of the GPT, the goal is now to produce a reasonably workable map for possible future hikers.  The map should be completed sometime this summer in time for the fall southbound hiking season, should anyone decide to give it a go.  There will also be some narrative descriptions of as much of the route as possible.  Keep an eye out here a for more news and updates.

Also, if you’re wondering about those last few days of Strider’s hike, keep an eye on his Facebook page because he’s planning on posting the last of his blog entries as well as a number of new photos!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Mission Accomplished!

13096172_1623423264634979_4612243037057126708_nLuke Jordan, aka Strider, has completed the first ever thru hike of the Great Plains Trail!  He did it in impressive fashion, finishing the nearly 2100 miles in 85 days, an average of over 24 miles per day.  All throughout, he maintained a workman like attitude, rising early, and knocking out the miles, but more importantly, he did it with a friendly attitude and a grace that made him the perfect ambassador for this fledgling trail.  He was received along the route with a mixture of curiosity, encouragement, and hospitality that often went above and beyond what could be expected.

This trail began as an idea, and it slowly evolved into a working plan.  From there, it took the courage of Luke Jordan to put it into action, but along the way, we all discovered that the true Great Plains Trail lies in the people who live along its route.  It’s their generosity and enthusiasm that gives this idea-turned plan-turned action a chance to grow and live, and become one of the great long distance trail experiences in the United States.

An enormous thanks goes out to all the Trail Angels who helped Strider in times of need.  You always seemed to show up just at the right moment!  I don’t know how many people will hike the GPT, but I do know the character of the people they will find along the way.  I know that whoever they are, and however many there are, they will be in great hands from Guadalupe Peak to the Canadian Border!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Update: First GPT Thru Hike

Nebraska, cows, Pine Ridge, Strider!

Nebraska, cows, Pine Ridge, Strider!

Luke “Strider” Jordan has been sailing along and is having a grand adventure as the first ever GPT thru hiker.  He has conquered Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, and as I write this, he is already half way through South Dakota.  As mentioned, the best way to track him is through his Facebook Page:  Strider NCT

He has great photos and a riveting play by play as he fights hurricane force winds, hops fallen trees, battles with loose dogs, and meets lots of “trail angels” who are excited just to meet him and offer what help they can.

Here’s just a taste from the Nebraska chapter:

Today will be a shorter day so I sleep in an extra hour and enjoy another hot breakfast at the motel before hitting the road. I pass by Scottsbluff once again and take the road through Mitchell Pass along many historic routes. This road is not only the official auto tour route for the Oregon Trail, but also of the California, Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express Trails. Many of these trails have been mostly swallowed up by modern agriculture so these auto tour routes are often all that remains. Just north of the pass a group of bikers pass me on the road and one of them slows down as he rides by. “Are you Strider?” He asks. Apparently the article Steve interviewed me for was already in this morning’s paper and my giant pack must give me away. He wishes me luck.
When I arrive in Mitchell the same thing happens, I pull in to the Subway for lunch and a car pulls up right next to me and a man gets out and walks over to me. “Are you the hiker? Great story in the paper!” We chat for a few minutes and then he hands me 20 bucks. “Good luck, and safe travels.” I thank him for his donation and then he speeds away. Inside the subway the woman behind the counter also recognizes me. “You must be the cross-country hiker. I’ve had four people come in today talking about you.” Amazing! 
After lunch I hang around for awhile figuring out my next move. The only place to camp around here is the county fairgrounds down the street, but I was hoping to get a little further today so tomorrow isn’t such a long haul to Agate Fossil Beds. I head into the local bar for a drink. Just as I enter another guy pops in with the owner of the place, Loren. The guy hands me a $20 bill and wishes me luck. This is amazing, folks around here are really excited about this hike. Afterwards Loren sits with me and chats for a bit, he hasn’t read the paper yet so he wasn’t aware of the trip I was on. Later some more folks come in and one of my drinks gets covered. Around this time some regulars start coming in and I get invited to join them at their table. Hence Loren introduces me to Taylor as he asks a few questions. Soon after someone familiar looking walks in and I meet Tanner. I immediately realize he reminds me of my friend Trevor back home, almost a doppleganger: same black sweatshirt and baseball cap, same age, Tanner just has more facial hair. I end up making good conversation with the three local friends til after dark. I find out there is a dog show in town and the fairgrounds is the staging area, it looks like that route isn’t going to work for camping. Then Tanner offers a place at his house just north of town, he has a sofa that never gets used. I accept his offer so we pay our tab and head out. Fine folks here in Mitchell.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Book Review: Trespassing Across America

Ilgunas_Trespassing#20DF01FA new book by author Ken Ilgunas comes out this month.  It’s called, Trespassing Across America – One Man’s Epic Never Before Done (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland.  

Right off the bat, you’ve gotta love that title.

Actually, there’s very little not to love about the book as it follows the first person account of Ken’s journey along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas.  You see, the journey was more than just a hike, it was also intended to shine a light on our oil economy and whether we really need another long distance pipeline.  Along the way, Ken meets locals who are for the pipeline and many who are opposed.  He talks with oil workers, towns people, and ranchers, and gets a wide range of opinions on the matter which stew informatively in his thoughts as he traverses, often trespassing on huge tracts of private land, the bulk of the Great Plains.

Truth is, in many places, Ken was following very close to the route for the GPT, and one thing he finds, not surprisingly at all, is the sheer beauty of the land – especially in the most wide open areas where wildness still abounds.

I think it’s easy for many people in America (or Canada for that matter), who live along the populated coasts to discount the interior as some sort of windblown wasteland, and not the expansive and invigorating landscape we know it to be.  An above ground pipeline is nothing more than an eyesore, and even though I personally benefit from the oil economy as much as anyone else, I agree with Ken that there has to be a better way.

I suggest you pick up a copy of his book and travel along with him.  Stay alert – you might have to dodge a cow or two, but you’ll get a good feel for the place, and the good people who call it home.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment