Tucked away in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a spectacular badlands area surrounding the Little Missouri River. The Caprock Coulee Trail is a great hiking option to see the highlights of the park in just a few hours. This loop adventure is dotted with unique geology, big views, and the occasional big-game wildlife sightings (buffalo, deer, goats).
The Caprock Coulee Trail starts and returns at a small lot 10 minutes from the park entrance along the scenic drive. A trailhead sign shows the route and other connecting trails that branch off. Starting here, head north or south (Caprock Coulee Trail is a loop), although going south begins with an abrupt climb to a high point.
The northern direction winds along a creek bed through canyons with beautiful water-carved walls. The first 100 yards are marked with points of interest. Beyond, it climbs out of the drainage to the edge of the surrounding plains. Here, the scenery opens to canyons and badlands for miles all around. Eventually, the trail crosses the scenic drive again and hugs the edge of the Little Missouri River valley. Along this ridge is the river bend overlook and a short side trail to an observation platform and stone shelter. The rest of the trail follows the valley ridge and climbs up an alien-looking geographic feature before it switchbacks down to the trailhead.
This trail is spectacular and beautiful year round. Summer is green and lush although muddy and slippery after rain, while winter brings out brown, yellows, and white snow. In winter, be mindful of temperatures and windchill as the higher exposed ridgelines may be windy; microspikes are helpful in icy conditions.