Tucked away in the Little Missouri National Grasslands is a network of trails that run through North Dakota's stunning badlands. Bennett Camp, one public campground in this area, is a staging point for a 15-mile loop along a section of the Maah Daah Hey Trail. This route utilizes the Bennett and Cottonwood Creek trails and takes hikers on a scenic hiking trip.
Hiking counter-clockwise, the route departs on the Bennett Creek Trail directly across from the trailhead sign and just a few hundred yards from Bennett Camp. For 3 miles, this trail is signed by posts with a deer skull and follows the creek to connect with the Maah Daah Hey (MDH) Trail. Reaching the MDH intersection, turn south and follow the sign toward Magpie Campground.
Along the Maah Daah Hey Trail, hikers enjoy winding creek canyons, climbing up and down buttes and grassy hills, and eventually a wide open mile or two through golden grass-filled plains. Lower elevation areas are filled with small shrub and brush, and upper parts of the terrain have small forest groves. Posts mark the trail and are scribed with a turtle icon and mileage references.
After 5 miles along the MDH trail, the Cottonwood Creek junction is marked and leaf icon posts guide hikers through more open plains. Dipping back down into the canyon, the trail crosses Cottonwood Creek before climbing up and down ridges several more times. Continue the 7 miles of this trail to return back to Bennett Camp.
Wildlife and livestock may be encountered along the trail, and there are numerous gates and several seasonal wells. Because of nearby ranching, be sure to treat and filter all water before consuming. In the winter, this trail sees very little use and provides a very solitary experience. The markers make the trail easy to find even under snow, but with freezing conditions there will be no running water available. Spring, summer, and fall bring warmer temperatures, bright colors, and hot sun, although there is little shade even in the shrubbed areas.