Cross Ranch Trails In North Dakota

Here is everything you need to know about the Cross Ranch Trails:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: North Dakota
  • Length: 14.7 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website:

The Cross Ranch Trails hold a significant place in the history of the American West. Located in central North Dakota, these trails were once part of a vast network of routes used by Native American tribes, fur traders, and pioneers during the 19th century. The trails were primarily used for transportation, trade, and communication, connecting various settlements and trading posts across the region.

The origins of the Cross Ranch Trails can be traced back to the indigenous Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes, who inhabited the area for centuries. These tribes established well-worn paths along the Missouri River, which served as major trade routes. The trails were crucial for the tribes’ economic and cultural exchanges, allowing them to trade goods, share knowledge, and maintain social connections.

With the arrival of European fur traders in the early 1800s, the Cross Ranch Trails gained further importance. Traders from companies such as the Hudson’s Bay Company and the American Fur Company utilized these trails to transport furs, pelts, and other goods to and from their trading posts. The trails became vital arteries of commerce, facilitating the fur trade that played a significant role in the economic development of the region.

As the United States expanded westward, the Cross Ranch Trails became part of the larger network of trails used by pioneers and settlers. These trails provided access to the fertile lands of the Great Plains, attracting homesteaders and farmers seeking new opportunities. The trails also served as routes for military expeditions, such as the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, which passed through the area in the early 1800s.

Today, the Cross Ranch Trails stand as a testament to the rich history of the American West. They serve as a reminder of the diverse cultures and peoples who traversed these paths, leaving their mark on the landscape. Preserving and exploring these trails allows us to connect with the past and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs experienced by those who came before us.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Cross Ranch State Park Visitor Center: This is the main access point for the Cross Ranch Trails. It provides parking, restrooms, and trail information.

2. River Overlook Trailhead: Located near the Visitor Center, this trailhead offers access to the River Overlook Trail, which provides scenic views of the Missouri River.

3. Nature Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Visitor Center and provides access to the Nature Trail, a shorter loop trail that showcases the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

4. Prairie Loop Trailhead: Situated further south in the park, this trailhead offers access to the Prairie Loop Trail, a longer loop trail that takes hikers through the park’s grasslands and offers opportunities for wildlife spotting.

5. Woodland Trailhead: Located in the northern part of the park, this trailhead provides access to the Woodland Trail, which winds through a wooded area and offers shade during hot summer months.

6. River Bottoms Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the park’s campground and provides access to the River Bottoms Trail, which follows the Missouri River and offers scenic views and opportunities for birdwatching.

7. North Loop Trailhead: Situated in the northern part of the park, this trailhead offers access to the North Loop Trail, a longer trail that takes hikers through a variety of landscapes, including woodlands, grasslands, and river bottoms.

8. South Loop Trailhead: Located in the southern part of the park, this trailhead provides access to the South Loop Trail, another longer trail that offers a more remote and secluded hiking experience.

9. Picnic Area Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the park’s picnic area and provides access to a network of shorter trails that are perfect for a leisurely stroll or a family outing.

10. Wildlife Viewing Area Trailhead: Situated near the park’s wildlife viewing area, this trailhead offers access to trails that provide opportunities for observing the park’s diverse wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and various bird species.

Transportation Available

1. Cross Ranch Shuttle – Shuttle service providing convenient transportation to and from Cross Ranch Trails.
2. Cross Ranch Bike Rentals – Bike rental service offering a variety of bikes for exploring Cross Ranch Trails.
3. Cross Ranch Horseback Riding – Horseback riding service providing guided tours of Cross Ranch Trails.
4. Cross Ranch ATV Rentals – ATV rental service for adventurous exploration of Cross Ranch Trails.
5. Cross Ranch Kayak Rentals – Kayak rental service for enjoying the nearby waterways around Cross Ranch Trails.
6. Cross Ranch Taxi – Local taxi service offering transportation to and from Cross Ranch Trails.
7. Cross Ranch Car Rentals – Car rental service providing vehicles for independent exploration of Cross Ranch Trails.
8. Cross Ranch Helicopter Tours – Helicopter tour service offering aerial views of Cross Ranch Trails and surrounding areas.
9. Cross Ranch Public Bus – Public bus service with routes passing near Cross Ranch Trails.
10. Cross Ranch Limousine Service – Luxury limousine service for a stylish and comfortable transportation experience to Cross Ranch Trails.


The amenities available at the Cross Ranch Trails may include:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available for visitors to use.

2. Parking: There might be designated parking areas for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Cross Ranch Trails may offer camping sites for those who wish to stay overnight. These sites may include tent camping areas or RV camping spots.

4. Picnic Areas: There could be designated picnic areas where visitors can enjoy outdoor meals and gatherings.

5. Hiking Trails: The trails themselves are an amenity, providing opportunities for hiking and exploring the natural surroundings.

6. Fishing: If there are bodies of water nearby, fishing may be allowed, providing an additional amenity for visitors.

7. Wildlife Viewing: The trails may offer opportunities for wildlife viewing, allowing visitors to observe and appreciate the local fauna.

8. Interpretive Signs: There might be interpretive signs along the trails, providing information about the local flora, fauna, and history.

9. Benches and Seating: There could be benches or seating areas along the trails, allowing visitors to rest and take in the scenery.

10. Information Center: Cross Ranch Trails may have an information center or visitor center where visitors can obtain maps, brochures, and additional information about the area.

Please note that the specific amenities available at Cross Ranch Trails may vary, and it is recommended to check with the official website or contact the management for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Cross Ranch State Park Campground – Campground within Cross Ranch State Park offering basic amenities and scenic views.
2. Cross Ranch State Park Visitor Center – Visitor center providing information about the park and its trails.
3. Bismarck, ND – City located approximately 30 miles east of Cross Ranch State Park, offering a wide range of lodging, food services, and emergency services.
4. Washburn, ND – Town located approximately 15 miles west of Cross Ranch State Park, providing limited lodging, food services, and emergency services.
5. Riverwood Inn & Suites – Hotel located in Washburn, ND, offering comfortable accommodations and nearby dining options.
6. Wilton, ND – Small town located approximately 20 miles southeast of Cross Ranch State Park, providing limited lodging, food services, and emergency services.
7. Hazen, ND – Town located approximately 30 miles southwest of Cross Ranch State Park, offering a variety of lodging, food services, and emergency services.
8. Beulah, ND – City located approximately 40 miles southwest of Cross Ranch State Park, providing a range of lodging, food services, and emergency services.
9. Garrison, ND – Town located approximately 40 miles northwest of Cross Ranch State Park, offering various lodging, food services, and emergency services.
10. Riverdale, ND – Small town located approximately 30 miles northwest of Cross Ranch State Park, providing limited lodging, food services, and emergency services.

Cross Ranch Trails Difficulty Notes

The Cross Ranch Trails offer a moderate difficulty level, making them suitable for hikers and bikers of various skill levels. The trails feature a mix of terrains, including flat sections along the Missouri River and more challenging inclines through wooded areas. While some trails may require a bit of endurance and agility, they are generally well-maintained and clearly marked, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner looking for a scenic stroll or an experienced adventurer seeking a bit of a challenge, the Cross Ranch Trails offer a diverse range of options to cater to your preferences.

Features And Attractions

1. Cross Ranch State Park: The entire park offers stunning scenic views of the Missouri River and the surrounding prairies. It is a great place to start exploring the Cross Ranch Trails.

2. Missouri River: The trails run along the Missouri River, providing beautiful views of the water and its banks. You can enjoy the peacefulness of the river and spot various wildlife along the way.

3. Cross Ranch Nature Preserve: This preserve is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. As you hike the trails, you can observe the natural beauty of the preserve, including wildflowers, grasslands, and wooded areas.

4. Historic Cross Ranch Headquarters: The trails pass by the historic headquarters of the Cross Ranch, which was established in the late 1800s. You can explore the old buildings and learn about the history of the area.

5. Native American Petroglyphs: Along the trails, you may come across ancient petroglyphs created by Native American tribes. These rock carvings offer a glimpse into the cultural heritage of the region.

6. Wildlife Viewing: The Cross Ranch Trails provide excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing. Keep an eye out for deer, coyotes, foxes, various bird species, and maybe even a glimpse of a bald eagle soaring above.

7. Scenic Overlooks: There are several scenic overlooks along the trails that offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. These vantage points allow you to appreciate the beauty of the area from a higher perspective.

8. Cottonwood Forests: The trails pass through areas with dense cottonwood forests. These forests provide shade and create a serene atmosphere as you hike through them.

9. Prairie Grasslands: The Cross Ranch Trails traverse vast prairie grasslands, which are characteristic of the region. The undulating grassy plains offer a sense of tranquility and a chance to connect with nature.

10. Sunsets: The open landscapes along the trails provide an ideal setting to witness breathtaking sunsets. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky lights up with vibrant colors, creating a memorable experience.

Remember to check with the park authorities or visitor center for any specific points of interest or landmarks along the Cross Ranch Trails, as there may be additional attractions or seasonal highlights to explore.

Usage Guidelines

– Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Clean up after your pets and dispose of waste properly.
– Bicycles are allowed on designated trails only.
– No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trails.
– Stay on marked trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
– Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during hunting seasons.
– No camping or overnight stays are permitted on the trails.
– Do not litter and carry out any trash or waste with you.
– Be mindful of other trail users and yield to hikers and equestrians.
– Do not disturb or harm wildlife or vegetation.
– Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at the trailhead or along the trails.

Seasonal Information

The Cross Ranch Trails offer a unique and picturesque experience for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. Located in North Dakota, this trail system is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and well-maintained paths. The best times of the year to visit the Cross Ranch Trails largely depend on personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.

During the spring season, the trails come alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery. This is an excellent time for hiking and birdwatching, as many migratory birds return to the area. The moderate temperatures and lower visitor numbers make it an ideal time to explore the trails at a leisurely pace. However, it’s worth noting that spring can bring occasional rain showers, so it’s advisable to pack appropriate gear.

Summer is the peak season for outdoor activities at the Cross Ranch Trails. The warm weather allows for a wide range of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and fishing. The trails offer ample shade, making it comfortable to explore even during the hottest days. However, it’s important to note that summer can also be the busiest time, especially on weekends and holidays. It’s advisable to plan your visit in advance and arrive early to secure parking.

As autumn arrives, the Cross Ranch Trails transform into a breathtaking display of fall colors. The changing leaves create a picturesque backdrop for hiking and photography enthusiasts. The cooler temperatures and fewer crowds make it an ideal time to enjoy the tranquility of the trails. However, it’s important to check for any seasonal closures or restrictions, as some trails may be temporarily closed for maintenance or hunting seasons.

Winter brings a unique charm to the Cross Ranch Trails, with opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter wildlife viewing. The trails are typically less crowded during this time, allowing visitors to enjoy the serene beauty of the snow-covered landscape. However, it’s essential to check for trail conditions and closures, as some paths may be inaccessible or require additional precautions due to snow and ice.

Overall, the Cross Ranch Trails offer a year-round outdoor experience, each season bringing its own distinct beauty and activities. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of autumn, the tranquility of winter, or the bustling energy of summer, there is always something to enjoy on these trails. It’s advisable to check the official website or contact the park authorities for the most up-to-date information on seasonal closures, trail conditions, and any specific regulations before planning your visit.


1. Wheelchair-Accessible Trails: The Cross Ranch Trails offer designated trails that are accessible for wheelchair users, providing a smooth and level surface for easy navigation.
2. Accessible Parking: ADA-compliant parking spaces are available near the trailheads, ensuring convenient access for individuals with disabilities.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are provided at various locations along the Cross Ranch Trails, offering facilities that meet ADA standards.
4. Trail Signage: Clear and visible signage is installed throughout the trails, including braille and tactile elements, to assist individuals with visual impairments in navigating the area.
5. Assistance Animals: Service animals are welcome on the Cross Ranch Trails, allowing individuals with disabilities to have the necessary support during their visit.
6. Accessible Picnic Areas: ADA-accessible picnic areas are available, providing wheelchair users with a designated space to enjoy outdoor meals and gatherings.
7. Trail Information in Alternative Formats: Trail maps and information are provided in alternative formats, such as large print or electronic versions, to accommodate individuals with visual impairments.
8. Accessible Viewing Areas: Scenic viewpoints along the Cross Ranch Trails are designed to be accessible, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
9. Accessible Trail Features: The trails may include features like ramps, handrails, and smooth surfaces to ensure accessibility for wheelchair users and individuals with limited mobility.
10. Accessible Trailhead Facilities: The trailhead areas are equipped with accessible amenities, including ramps, curb cuts, and designated accessible parking spaces, to facilitate easy access for all visitors.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Cross Ranch Trails offer a range of difficulty levels, from easy to moderate, ensuring a suitable experience for all hikers and bikers.
2. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with good traction to prevent slips and falls on uneven terrain.
3. Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays during sunny days on the trails.
4. Hydration: Carry an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated, especially during hot weather or longer hikes.
5. Trail Etiquette: Respect other trail users by yielding to hikers and bikers going uphill, keeping noise levels low, and leaving no trace of your visit.
6. Wildlife Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings and respect the natural habitat of wildlife, keeping a safe distance and not feeding or approaching them.
7. Trail Markings: Pay attention to trail markers and signs to stay on the designated path and avoid getting lost.
8. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first aid kit, a whistle, and a fully charged cell phone for emergencies.
9. Weather Conditions: Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes, such as rain or strong winds.
10. Trail Closure Notices: Stay updated on any trail closures or restrictions due to maintenance, wildlife activity, or adverse weather conditions for your safety.

Conservation Notes

The Cross Ranch Trails, located in North Dakota, are considered to have a favorable conservation status. These trails are situated within the Cross Ranch State Park, which is managed by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. The park’s primary objective is to preserve and protect the natural resources found within its boundaries, including the trails.

Efforts have been made to ensure the conservation of the Cross Ranch Trails by implementing various management strategies. These strategies focus on maintaining the ecological integrity of the area, protecting wildlife habitats, and minimizing human impact. The trails are regularly monitored and maintained to prevent erosion and degradation, ensuring their long-term sustainability.

Conservation practices are also in place to safeguard the biodiversity of the Cross Ranch Trails. The park is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including several rare and threatened ones. Conservation efforts aim to protect these species and their habitats, promoting a healthy and balanced ecosystem within the park.

Overall, the conservation status of the Cross Ranch Trails is considered to be in good standing. The park’s management prioritizes the preservation of its natural resources, ensuring that visitors can enjoy the trails while minimizing their impact on the environment. By maintaining the ecological integrity of the area and protecting its biodiversity, the Cross Ranch Trails can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

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