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Petrified Forest Loop Trail

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Northwestern Great Plains, North Dakota

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Petrified Forest Loop Trail

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  • The trailhead parking lot.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The trailhead sign with a display map.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The gate entrance into Theodore Roosevelt National Park.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • A trail register.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The trail climbing before the trail splits into the north and south trails.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Antelope seen from the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The view looking over the South Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The South Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • A view of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands from the South Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The South Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Looking back on the South Petrified Forest from the east side of the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The trail following along a plateau.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views of the badlands from the plateau.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Take a left U-turn at the trail junction to follow the MDHT north.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views of the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park from the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views of the badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views of the badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Approaching the trail junction of the MDHT and the North Petrified Forest Trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The trail leading to the North Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The view from the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The trail winding through the badlands.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Looking back on the trail climbing out of a valley.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views of Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views from the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • A herd of bison seen from the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Looking over the North Petrified Forest from the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The North Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The North Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The North Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The North Petrified Forest.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Looking back on the North Petrified Forest valley from the west side of the trail.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • The view from the trail looking toward the parking lot.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views heading back to the parking lot.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • Views heading back to the parking lot.- Petrified Forest Loop Trail
  • - Petrified Forest Loop Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Wildlife viewing. Petrified forest. Wildflowers.
Cons: 
Long stretch of plateau hiking.
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Region:
Northwestern Great Plains, ND
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
10.45 mi (16.82 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,567.00 ft (782.42 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Petrified Forest Loop Trail is a 10.4-mile hike through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The loop trail uses the Maah Daah Hey Trail (MDHT) to connect the North and South Petrified Forest Trails, gives beautiful panoramic views of the badlands, and offers a variety of terrain. This report follows the South Trail connecting with the MDHT heading north to join with the North Petrified Forest Trail, completing the loop and bringing you back to the parking lot. The trail is very exposed with very little shade and no water sources, so make sure to bring plenty of water and use sun protection.

In addition to the landscape, you may have the opportunity to see wildlife, including deer, antelope, bison, and horses. The spring and summer months provide beautiful wildflowers including the prairie rose, North Dakota’s state flower, and many others.

With the trailhead parking located outside of the national park, there is no fee to enter the park by foot or horseback. The park trails are closed to motor vehicles and mountain bikes. A short hike from the parking area brings you to the park entrance, where there is a trail register just past the gated entrance.

The trail climbs for the first half-mile before reaching a plateau, where it splits for the South and North Petrified Forest routes. Follow the trail to the right for the South Petrified Forest Trail. After hiking on the plateau for another half-mile, you descend into the South Petrified Forest. The trail takes you atop another plateau for almost 2 miles before connecting with the MDHT. This plateau is a popular grazing area for herds of bison. If you see any, make sure to keep your distance and respect their space.

At the MDHT junction you will take a sharp left, almost making a U-turn. The MDHT here is a little faint to see, so keep an eye out for the trail posts to use as a guide if needed. The MDHT follows the plateau for another 3 miles providing multiple views of the badlands before joining with the North Petrified Forest Trail. Take a left at the trail junction to continue on to the North Petrified Forest.

This portion of the trail offers more challenging terrain with various steep descents and steady climbs. Two miles from the MDHT trail junction and 9 miles into the trip, you will find the North Petrified Forest. The trail again takes you through the heart of the forest. From the North Petrified Forest it is about 1 mile back to the trailhead and parking lot.

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(2 within a 30 mile radius)

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(2 within a 30 mile radius)

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