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Abundant diversity in an moderate loop.

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2,444' 745 m


1,955' 596 m


1,040' 317 m


1,039' 317 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (19°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

Standard National Park rules apply.


This trail has abundand diversity ranging from prairie and prairie dog towns, to high plateau plains, narrow treed coulees and river bottom scenes. Get close to the Little Missouri, hike the wide open sage filled flats and twist and turn down steep ravines.

This trail does end up running a significant portion along the park Scenic road, which detracts from the solitude of nature. Also, the trail runs by the water treatment ponds for the campgrounds.

Need to Know

This trail crosses the Scenic road and is close to the road on several occasions making it an easy escape to easier running or to avoid wildlife if they are in the way.


Start from one of two parking lot options: the Cannonball Concretion parking lot or a small spot nearer the park entrance. Both have a register to sign in to allow the rangers to account for trail users, so please sign in and out.

Because the Cannonball Concretions parking lot is close to the campground, it is the recommended starting point. Begin by following the trail to the trailhead register and sign in. follow the trail up and down small ravines and across the prairie. The head down into a larger drainage, hop a small creek and continue towards the Scenic road. The trail take a turn to the right and west and heads up and embankment. Follow the trail until reaching a trail marker and take a right no the north to the prairie dog town.

Hike a flat open prairie where bison frequent through the prairie dog towns. Head down into the wide valley and follow the trail through tall sagebrush. The trail then heads east across another small stream and up into a large treed valley. The trail is hard to follow occasionally and keeping your eye open for orange and pink ribbons helping to mark the trail will keep you on the right path.

The trail then begins a large climb winding through trees and rock formations before finally reaching the high prairie plateau. Again, continue to look ahead for trail markers and bison and cross the prairie until the trail takes a left turn and heads down into another valley system on the opposite side of the plateau.

This section is characterized by steep descents with a trail that is pockmarked with bison hoof prints. Watch your footing and also for tree branches at head height. Continue down until reaching a small stream, cross, and follow the trail on the left of the creek. Descend on a sharp spine to the bottom and cross to the right side of the next stream. The trail has slumped off the hill here and is not as obvious.

The trail winds around going up and down, passing badlands formations before finally reaching the Scenic road and the alternate parking lot. Stay on the right side of the road and follow the trail along the road. After cresting the rise, cross the road to continue on the trail down to sagebrush flats.

Pick the best trail through the flats along the river, trying to follow the markers. Cross a gravel service road and down into another section of sagebrush flats before climbing a small hill and passing a couple of small ponds. Then pass by the water treatment ponds for the park campground until a service road is reached. Take the service road to the Scenic road and Cannonball Concretions parking lot.

Flora & Fauna

Bison, deer, coyote, birds, wildflowers, cottonwoods, aspen, willow, prairie dogs, prairie.


Land Manager: NPS - Theodore Roosevelt

Shared By:

Kyle Thompson

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 5 votes


in North Unit


  4.0 from 5 votes
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in North Unit


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4 Views Last Month
1,966 Since Apr 23, 2015



Cannonball Concretion at the Cannonball Concretion Parking Lot.
Apr 24, 2015 near Watford…, ND
The Buckhorn Trail provides ample views of open space as you travel. Photo credit: NPS/Laura Thomas.
May 25, 2017 near Watford…, ND
Badlands - Buckhorn Trail
Apr 28, 2015 near Watford…, ND
Bison sauntering down the road.
Apr 24, 2015 near Watford…, ND
Coming down off of the plateau headed east.
Apr 24, 2015 near Watford…, ND
Running through Prairie Dog Town on the Buckhorn Trail
Apr 24, 2015 near Watford…, ND



Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Jun 13, 2022
Brian Moreland
A good hike. Portions of the trail are hard to follow due to bison paths intersecting that can be mistaken for the hiking trail.
Sep 22, 2021
Steven Brenner
I took a short portion of this hiking trail. I reached the summit of a hill then returned
Sep 3, 2020
David Wybo
Aug 1, 2020
Zachary Hale
Fairly nice hike through the badlands near the parks entrance! A bit of elevation changes, overgrown trails, and horrendous trail markings. 13.3mi
May 26, 2020
Fai kurujitkosol
Feb 8, 2020
Susan Schaefer
Jul 4, 2018
Dan Heffner
Jun 27, 2017
H.B. Montane