If you choose our multi-day shuttle service then potable water is provided each day, saving your arms from pumping well water at when you arrive at camp (each campground on the trail has hand pumped potable water throughout the season). The campgrounds are 18 or more miles apart so plan accordingly. The Maah Daah Hey Trail Map shows locations of springs, dams, dugouts, and stock tanks. This water is not certified as potable (read: gross), and may be difficult to filter. Some of these sites are not dependable. Eight water cache sites have been added to the trail by the MDH Trail Association and other volunteer groups.
How is the camping?
Excellent. There are 9 bike friendly, developed campsites on the Maah Daah Hey Trail System – in order from North to South: the CCC, Bennett, Magpie, Elkhorn, Wannagan, Buffalo Gap, Sully Creek, Coal Creek, and Burning Coal Vein. Each of these are between 18-25 miles apart and have a water pump and outhouse style toilets. They all have spur trails that lead you right on or off the trail each day. Plus the night skies are gorgeous!
What is the trail like? And is it really all singletrack?
This is a fairly strenous ride and it takes a surprising amount of fitness and skill. The main reason is that you are almost constantly climbing or descending. The Badlands are a place of extremes and hills show it like lines on an old man's face. Erosion is constant and can make trail unexpectedly rough in sections. We like a full suspension bikes out here. The soil composition is almost completely bentonite clay. This is a soil type can be super buff when dry but an ugly gremlin when wet. There are very few rocks on the trail itself though you will pass through a petrified forest near Wannagan Camp! There are some low lying prickly pear cactus and we recommend a tubeless setup. But it's not usually an issue if you stay on the trail!
Prepare for all types of weather when you visit North Dakota. The trail is open for use all year, but at various times of the year, the trail may be impassable due to snow, ice, high water, and mud. Please don't use the trail when wet! Doing so can cause permanent damage to the trail. Users of the Maah Daah Hey Trail system share the same space with horseback riders, hikers, and bicyclists. Shared-use trails are successful when users cooperate and abide by the rules.
Some of the best months of the year to visit are mid-June through September. May and early June are the greenest months but can be rainy which leads to off-days.
You can check the NDAWN weather sites that provide weather data from automated weather stations located near these towns closest to the MDH: Beach, Dickinson, Watford City. Other towns to check are Grassy Butte, Medora and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
What's up with the sign posts? Are they mile markers?
The sign posts will mark your way as sight markers - you should be able to see from one post to the next. The posts are also cut at a 45 degree angle at the top, with the angle facing the trail (keep your eyes peeled, there are a few mistakes out there and some very convincing cow trails).
That being said, not every post has a mile marker on it. You will see special stainless steel posts at CCC Camp, mid-way, and Sully Creek to celebrate the original 96 mile route. Plus down by the Buffalo Gap trail the turtle symbol changes into a bison skull and the mileage gets screwy due to the re-route for bikes around the national park.
No we aren't but we are proud supporters of this growing event! Plus for the last few years with the Forest Service being underfunded, Nick Ybarra, Phil Helfrich, plus a handful of other volunteers, have put in tons of hours maintaining the original trail system in preparation for the race in August. Dakota Cyclery provides the Volunteer Permit, makes available tools and a trailer, and we get out and mow when we can. This mowing and grooming keeps the trail from completely overgrowing on the lesser ridden northern half trail portion. Nick writes about it first hand here. If you are interested in volunteering or testing your mettle racing the Maah Daah Hey in a day then check out Experience Land. Make sure to watch the stunning videos of the race to increase your stoke factor for the Maah Daah Hey!