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Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail

Northwestern Great Plains, North Dakota

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Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail

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  • The Bennett Trailhead with Bennett Camp a few hundred yards away.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Snowy morning on the Bennett Creek Trail heading toward the junction with Maah Daah Hey.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Badlands along the Bennett Creek Trail.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Crossing through multiple creek drainages, frozen during this time of year.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Winter clouds hide the morning sun on the Maah Daah Hey Trail.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • The trail traverses from canyon floor to the hill tops.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Erosion at work all along the trail.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Climbing to the top brings bigger views of the badlands.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • High ridgelines near the Cottonwood Creek Trail junction are home to larger trees.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Large rocks are rare in this area, where most of the features are of water-carved soil.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Plains open up on top of the badlands.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • A forest in winter hibernation.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Cottonwood Creek Trail junction.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Hiking along a winding path through open fields.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Incredible views lie just beyond the snowy plain.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Several hundred feet of elevation lie ahead to get out of Cottonwood Creek canyon.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Canyon landscapes while winding up the side of the ridge.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Caprock sits on top of soft soil and creates the unique drainage features seen here.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Orange soil and rock adds color to the terrain.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • One last view descending back to the Bennett Camp area.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • Looking back up the Cottonwood Creek Trail.- Bennett-Cottonwood Loop via Maah Daah Hey Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Scenic. Secluded. Wildlife. Pet-friendly.
Cons: 
Exposed to sun (summer). Exposed to extreme cold (winter).
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Region:
Northwestern Great Plains, ND
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Highest point: 
2,610.00 ft (795.53 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall, Winter
Suitable for:
Horseback, Biking
Total Distance: 
15.00 mi (24.14 km)
Total elevation gain: 
2,520.00 ft (768.10 m)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,200.00 ft (670.56 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

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.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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(2 within a 30 mile radius)

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