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greenBlue Painted Canyon Trail

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Trail

2.1 mile 3.4 kilometer point to point
Singletrack
Easy/Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 90' 28 m
Descent: -388' -118 m
High: 2,779' 847 m
Low: 2,464' 751 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 28% (15°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Karen Ryberg

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An out-and-back trail that provides a variety of settings - rugged badlands, sagebrush flats, and rolling grasslands.

Karen Ryberg

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Spectacular views and an easy path keep the whole family entertained.

The visitor center is not open all year round; however, in the off season, hikers can take exit 32 and park near the entrance and pass through a walk-in gate to access the views and this trail, as well as the Painted Canyon Nature Trail.

Description

This trail starts at the Theodore Roosevelt National Painted Canyon Visitor Center parking lot. This is a small facility off exit 32 of Interstate 94. It is a dual visitor center and highway rest area. It is a popular place for travelers to take a quick break and look over the rim into Painted Canyon below.

At the east end of the parking lot, there is a trailhead sign with a map. It pays to examine the map and note how far the trail traverses along the rim before starting its descent (about 0.5 mile) because there are numerous well-traveled bison trails in the area that could easily divert a hiker.

From the trailhead, follow a gravel road east. It turns into a two-track dirt trail as you pass two fenced air-quality and weather monitoring stations, that also have a webcam. Continue east/southeast past the fenced septic lagoon for the rest area - at this point the two-track road turns into a hiking trail. There should be a marker ahead where the trail turns down off the rim; however, markers are difficult to maintain in the park because bison use them as scratching posts.

Shortly after starting the descent, there is a box for visitors to register. The descent continues from this point and levels out as it passes through some gullies create by intermittent streams. At about the halfway point, hikers pass through a sagebrush flats area. Then the trail dips into a deep gully and back up to rolling grasslands.

At the north end, it meets the Upper Paddock Creek Trail and one could continue northwest or southeast on that trail. If this is your turnaround point, the stretch back up the rim in the last mile is challenging, but the steepest part is relatively short, and it provides fantastic views of the badlands stretching to the north.

Flora & Fauna

Bison are frequently seen on this trail and in the visitor center area. Other flora and fauna include feral horses, Rocky Mountain Juniper, wildflowers, and garter snakes.

Contacts

Land Manager: NPS - Theodore Roosevelt

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Check-Ins

Oct 18, 2018
Max M
The begging was steep, and rugged. There are small slot canyons that the trail meanders through. We spotted bison on the trail, and had to go around.
Oct 18, 2018
Jack M
On our way back, we had to go off-trail/bushwhacking to avoid a bison coming down the trail 4mi — 2h 14m
Oct 3, 2018
Dave Buttner
4mi
Jul 29, 2018
Aaron Fagerwick
1mi
Jul 13, 2018
Justin Holstein
May 30, 2018
Shani Sandler
Oct 14, 2017
Ethan Martinson
4.3mi
Jul 12, 2017
Jennie Elshakhs

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 7 votes

#8

in South Unit

#6024

Overall
  4.1 from 7 votes
5 Star
43%
4 Star
29%
3 Star
29%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#8

in South Unit

#22

in North Dakota

#6,024

Overall
71 Views Last Month
1,046 Since Sep 9, 2015
Easy/Intermediate Easy/Intermediate

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