Roughrider Trail In North Dakota

Here is everything you need to know about the Roughrider Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: North Dakota
  • Length: 16.5 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website: Info not available.

The Roughrider Trail holds a significant place in the history of North Dakota, serving as a testament to the state’s rich heritage and the spirit of its people. This historic trail, spanning approximately 120 miles, was established in the late 19th century and played a crucial role in the development of the region.

Originally known as the Fort Totten Trail, the Roughrider Trail was initially used by Native American tribes for hunting and trading purposes. However, with the arrival of European settlers in the mid-1800s, the trail gained prominence as a vital transportation route. It became an essential link between the Missouri River and the fertile lands of the Red River Valley, facilitating the movement of goods, livestock, and people.

The trail’s name was changed to the Roughrider Trail in honor of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, also known as the Rough Riders, who gained fame during the Spanish-American War. This change reflected the pride and admiration North Dakotans felt for their native son, Theodore Roosevelt, who led the Rough Riders during the war. The trail became a symbol of the state’s connection to Roosevelt and his legacy.

Over the years, the Roughrider Trail witnessed the growth and transformation of North Dakota. It witnessed the rise of small towns and settlements along its path, which relied on the trail for economic prosperity. The trail also played a crucial role during the settlement of the Dakota Territory, as it provided a lifeline for pioneers seeking a better life in the West.

Today, the Roughrider Trail stands as a reminder of North Dakota’s pioneering spirit and the resilience of its people. It serves as a popular recreational trail, attracting hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts who wish to explore the state’s history and natural beauty. The Roughrider Trail continues to be a cherished part of North Dakota’s heritage, preserving the stories of those who traversed its path and contributing to the state’s cultural identity.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Visitor Center: This is the starting point of the Roughrider Trail, located in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Watford City, North Dakota.

2. Juniper Campground: Located within Theodore Roosevelt National Park, this campground serves as a trailhead for the Roughrider Trail.

3. CCC Campground: Another campground within Theodore Roosevelt National Park that provides access to the Roughrider Trail.

4. Oxbow Overlook: A scenic overlook along the Roughrider Trail, offering panoramic views of the surrounding badlands.

5. Buckhorn Trailhead: Located near the town of Grassy Butte, this trailhead provides access to the Roughrider Trail.

6. Bennett Creek Trailhead: Situated near the town of Fairfield, this trailhead serves as an access point for the Roughrider Trail.

7. Sully Creek State Park: Located near Medora, North Dakota, this state park offers camping facilities and serves as a trailhead for the Roughrider Trail.

8. Maah Daah Hey Trailhead: This trailhead, located near the town of Medora, provides access to both the Maah Daah Hey Trail and the Roughrider Trail.

9. Elkhorn Ranch: The historic site of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch serves as a trailhead for the Roughrider Trail.

10. Burning Coal Vein Campground: Situated near the town of Amidon, this campground offers access to the Roughrider Trail.

11. Magpie Campground: Located within the Little Missouri National Grassland, this campground serves as a trailhead for the Roughrider Trail.

12. CCC Campground (Little Missouri National Grassland): Another campground within the Little Missouri National Grassland that provides access to the Roughrider Trail.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Roughrider Trail, but there may be additional smaller access points or trailheads along the route.

Transportation Available

1. Roughrider Trail Shuttle – Convenient shuttle service for transportation along the Roughrider Trail.
2. Bike Rentals – Rent a bike to explore the Roughrider Trail at your own pace.
3. Local Taxi Service – Quick and reliable taxi service for transportation to and from the Roughrider Trail.
4. Public Bus – Affordable public bus service with stops near the Roughrider Trail.
5. Car Rental – Rent a car for easy access to the Roughrider Trail and surrounding areas.
6. Ride-Sharing Service – On-demand ride-sharing service for convenient transportation along the Roughrider Trail.
7. Motorcycle Rentals – Rent a motorcycle to enjoy the scenic Roughrider Trail with a thrilling ride.
8. Horseback Riding Tours – Guided horseback riding tours for a unique way to experience the Roughrider Trail.
9. ATV Rentals – Rent an ATV for an adventurous off-road experience on the Roughrider Trail.
10. Limousine Service – Luxury transportation service for a comfortable and stylish journey along the Roughrider Trail.


The amenities available at the Roughrider Trail may vary depending on the specific location or section of the trail. However, here are some common amenities that can be found along many parts of the trail:

1. Restrooms: Some sections of the trail may have restroom facilities available, either at trailheads or along the route. These restrooms may be permanent structures or portable toilets.

2. Parking: Many trailheads along the Roughrider Trail offer parking areas for visitors. These parking lots may be free or require a parking fee.

3. Camping Sites: Some sections of the trail may have designated camping areas or campgrounds nearby. These sites may offer facilities such as tent pads, fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: Along the trail, you may find designated picnic areas with tables, benches, and sometimes grills. These areas provide a place for visitors to rest, eat, and enjoy the surroundings.

5. Water Stations: Depending on the length and remoteness of the trail section, there may be water stations or drinking fountains available for hikers and bikers to refill their water bottles.

6. Trailhead Facilities: At various trailheads, you may find additional amenities such as visitor centers, information boards, maps, and sometimes even concessions or food vendors.

7. Trail Markers and Signage: The Roughrider Trail is typically well-marked with signs, trail markers, and directional arrows to help users navigate the route.

It is important to note that the availability and condition of these amenities can vary, so it is advisable to check with local authorities or trail management organizations for specific information about the amenities along the section of the Roughrider Trail you plan to visit.

Nearby Services

1. Roughrider Hotel – Historic hotel offering comfortable lodging in the heart of the Roughrider Trail.
2. Trailside Inn – Cozy inn located conveniently along the Roughrider Trail, perfect for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
3. Roughrider Campground – Campground with basic amenities, ideal for those seeking a rustic experience near the trail.
4. Roughrider Diner – Quaint diner serving delicious comfort food, a popular spot for hungry trail-goers.
5. Roughrider General Store – Convenient store offering supplies, snacks, and essentials for hikers on the Roughrider Trail.
6. Roughrider Medical Clinic – Local medical clinic providing emergency services and healthcare assistance to trail visitors.

Roughrider Trail Difficulty Notes

The Roughrider Trail is known for its challenging terrain and demanding nature, making it a trail that is not for the faint of heart. With steep inclines, rocky sections, and narrow paths, hikers and bikers must possess a high level of physical fitness and technical skill to navigate this trail successfully. The trail’s difficulty level is further amplified by unpredictable weather conditions, including strong winds and sudden changes in temperature. However, for those seeking an adrenaline rush and a true test of their abilities, the Roughrider Trail offers a thrilling and rewarding adventure.

Features And Attractions

The Roughrider Trail is a scenic route in North Dakota that offers a variety of attractions and landmarks. Here are some of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks along the Roughrider Trail:

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park: This national park is a major highlight along the Roughrider Trail. It offers stunning badlands scenery, wildlife viewing opportunities, and hiking trails.

2. Maah Daah Hey Trail: This 144-mile long trail runs through the Badlands and offers breathtaking views of the rugged landscape. It is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

3. Medora: This charming town is the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It features historic buildings, shops, restaurants, and the famous Medora Musical.

4. Painted Canyon: Located in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Painted Canyon offers panoramic views of colorful badlands formations. There is a visitor center where you can learn more about the area.

5. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site: This site preserves the historic earthlodge villages of the Northern Plains Indians. Visitors can explore reconstructed earthlodges, hike trails, and learn about Native American culture.

6. Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site: This reconstructed trading post was once the most important fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River. It offers guided tours, exhibits, and living history demonstrations.

7. Lake Sakakawea: This massive reservoir is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and camping. It offers beautiful views, sandy beaches, and opportunities for water sports.

8. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center: Located in Washburn, this center tells the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and their journey through North Dakota. It features exhibits, artifacts, and a replica of Fort Mandan.

9. Knife River: This scenic river flows through the Badlands and offers opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. It is also home to the Knife River Indian Villages.

10. Chateau de Mores State Historic Site: This historic site in Medora preserves the 26-room mansion of the Marquis de Mores, a French nobleman who played a significant role in the development of the area.

These are just a few of the many attractions and landmarks along the Roughrider Trail. Exploring this route will provide you with a rich blend of natural beauty, history, and cultural experiences.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Respect wildlife and do not disturb or feed them.
4. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
5. Bicycles are permitted but must yield to pedestrians.
6. Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
7. Camping or overnight stays are not allowed on the trail.
8. Open fires and smoking are prohibited.
9. Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during hunting seasons.
10. Leave no trace – pack out all trash and litter.
11. Observe and follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at trailheads or along the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Roughrider Trail, located in North Dakota, offers a unique and captivating experience for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The best times of the year to visit this trail largely depend on personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in. However, the spring and fall seasons are generally considered the most favorable for exploring the Roughrider Trail.

In the spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom and the landscape rejuvenates after the winter months. The weather is usually mild, making it an ideal time for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The trail offers breathtaking views of rolling hills, picturesque valleys, and serene lakes, creating a perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures.

Fall is another fantastic time to visit the Roughrider Trail. The foliage transforms into a stunning array of red, orange, and gold hues, creating a picturesque landscape. The weather is typically pleasant, with cooler temperatures and lower humidity, making it an excellent time for hiking and camping. Fall also brings opportunities for wildlife viewing, as many animals prepare for the winter months.

It’s important to note that the Roughrider Trail may have seasonal closures or restrictions in certain areas. During the winter months, some sections of the trail may be inaccessible due to heavy snowfall or icy conditions. It’s advisable to check with local authorities or trail management organizations for up-to-date information on closures and trail conditions before planning your visit.

Overall, the Roughrider Trail offers a diverse and captivating experience throughout the year. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of spring or the stunning foliage of fall, this trail promises unforgettable moments and a chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of North Dakota’s natural landscapes.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Trailhead: The Roughrider Trail has a designated trailhead with accessible parking, ramps, and pathways for wheelchair users.
2. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved pathways that are smooth and suitable for wheelchair users, ensuring easy navigation.
3. Accessible Restrooms: ADA-compliant restrooms are available along the trail, equipped with accessible stalls and amenities.
4. Benches and Rest Areas: The trail provides accessible benches and rest areas at regular intervals, allowing wheelchair users to take breaks and enjoy the surroundings.
5. Signage and Wayfinding: Clear and visible signage is placed along the trail, including accessible maps and directions, to assist wheelchair users in navigating the trail.
6. Handrails and Guardrails: Where necessary, the trail is equipped with handrails and guardrails to ensure safety and stability for wheelchair users.
7. Accessible Picnic Areas: The Roughrider Trail offers accessible picnic areas with tables and seating designed to accommodate wheelchair users.
8. Trail Surface Maintenance: The trail is regularly maintained to ensure a smooth and even surface, minimizing obstacles and providing a comfortable experience for wheelchair users.
9. Accessible Water Fountains: ADA-compliant water fountains are available along the trail, designed to be easily accessible for wheelchair users.
10. Accessible Trail Connections: The Roughrider Trail is designed to connect with other accessible trails, providing wheelchair users with extended options for exploration and recreation.

Safety Information

1. Trail Conditions: Check for updates on trail conditions before embarking on the Roughrider Trail to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
2. Proper Gear: Wear appropriate hiking boots, carry a map, compass, and a fully charged cell phone for emergencies.
3. Weather Awareness: Be aware of changing weather conditions and dress accordingly to stay comfortable and safe.
4. Wildlife Encounter: Keep a safe distance from wildlife, do not feed them, and store food securely to avoid attracting animals.
5. Water Sources: Carry enough water or water purification methods as there may be limited water sources along the trail.
6. Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and use sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
7. First Aid Kit: Carry a basic first aid kit with essentials like bandages, antiseptic, and any necessary personal medications.
8. Trail Etiquette: Respect other hikers by yielding the right of way, keeping noise levels down, and leaving no trace behind.
9. Emergency Contacts: Share your hiking plans with someone and carry emergency contact information in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
10. Physical Fitness: Assess your physical fitness level and choose a trail section that matches your abilities to avoid overexertion or injuries.

Conservation Notes

The conservation status of the Roughrider Trail is of significant concern due to various factors impacting its ecological integrity. The trail traverses through diverse ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and grasslands, which are home to a wide range of plant and animal species. However, increasing human activities and habitat fragmentation pose significant threats to the conservation of this trail.

One of the primary concerns is the encroachment of urban development along the trail’s route. As cities expand and infrastructure projects are undertaken, the natural habitats surrounding the trail are being fragmented and destroyed. This fragmentation disrupts the movement and dispersal patterns of wildlife, leading to a loss of biodiversity and genetic diversity within populations. Additionally, the construction of roads and buildings can result in increased pollution, noise, and light pollution, further impacting the delicate balance of the ecosystems along the trail.

Another significant threat to the conservation status of the Roughrider Trail is the spread of invasive species. Invasive plants and animals can outcompete native species for resources, disrupt natural ecological processes, and alter the structure and composition of ecosystems. This can have cascading effects on the entire ecosystem, affecting the food web and reducing the overall resilience of the trail’s ecosystems to environmental changes.

Efforts are being made to mitigate these threats and conserve the Roughrider Trail. Conservation organizations, government agencies, and local communities are working together to implement measures such as habitat restoration, invasive species management, and land-use planning to protect and restore the trail’s ecosystems. Additionally, educational programs and public awareness campaigns are being conducted to promote responsible recreational use of the trail and foster a sense of stewardship among trail users. These conservation efforts are crucial to ensure the long-term sustainability and ecological health of the Roughrider Trail and its surrounding natural areas.

Leave a Comment