Into the Badlands: 5 of the Best Day Rides Along the Maah Daah Hey Trail

If you don't want to tackle the entire 150-mile length, you can still enjoy some great day rides along North Dakota's Maah Daah Hey Trail.

The Maah Daah Hey trail (and its connecting trails) offer world-class bikepacking. For 150 miles, pain-loving mountain bikers can hammer through North Dakota’s badlands. If you visit in September, you can even join a bunch of other sadists and race the whole thing in the MDH150.

Fortunately, for those of us who are a little lazier or otherwise caught up in the demands of parenthood, family, and work, the Maah Daah Hey trail can be explored as a series of shorter day trips.  This is exactly what I did on my recent visit to Medora, ND. Camped on the edge of endless prairie at Buffalo Gap campground, my husband, parents, and I took turns watching the kiddo and exploring the trail.

For other riders who’d like to explore the Maah Daah Hey in between family outings to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, here are some of the more accessible bite-size chunks of trail. Many of these can be ridden as an out-and-back from camp, or are available as paid shuttles from Dakota Cyclery.

Buffalo Gap Campground to Medora

14.5 miles one way

This section of trail offers a little bit of everything: fast, flowing prairie singletrack, switchbacks through badland mesas, and an under-freeway tunnel. The ride begins on the Buffalo Gap trail before turning north on the Maah Daah Hey toward Medora.  Bring your wallet so you can end your ride with a burger and a beer in town.

Wannagan Camp to Buffalo Gap Campground

15 miles one way

Maah Daah Hey Trail sign

Getting to this trailhead is almost as adventurous as the ride itself. We visited after a heavy rain and found our pickup truck sliding in the clay-like mud. If you don’t have a shuttle driver, the ride would also work well as an out-and-back from the Buffalo Gap Campground.

From the north end, the trail departs Wannagan Camp. Almost immediately, riders are treated to spectacular views of red, yellow, and white rock formations. The first several miles of singletrack weave through pine trees before dumping riders onto the Buffalo Gap trail and out into the rolling grasslands.

Coal Creek Campground to Medora

18 miles one way

If the other sections of the Maah Daah Hey and Buffalo Gap trails have left you yawning, try this southern section of the Maah Daah Hey. The trail here is technical, rugged, and remote. If the singletrack doesn’t captivate your attention, the colorful scenery will. Ride the Maah Daah Hey from camp as an out-and-back or head for Medora and have someone pick you up.

Magpie Campground to Bennet Campground

24.8 miles one way

Looking for a long day on the bike without killing yourself? This section of the Maah Daah Hey is for you — rolling prairie hills make for minimal climbing and fast pedaling. Wide-open grasslands are punctuated by rock mesas, providing views of prairie dog cities and running antelope.

The Deuce (Plumely Draw to the Bully Pulpit)

11 miles one way

The Maah Daah Hey II, also known as “The Deuce,” is an extension of the original Maah Daah Hey Trail.  Many folks argue that this section is even better than its predecessor. While the full trail is 50 miles, the segment from Plumely Draw to Bully Pulpit is the best-developed and arguably most enjoyable. Riders will enjoy views of the Little Missouri River and the potential to see lots of wildlife.

For an interactive trail map showing these various trailheads (and more), visit


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