Self-Guided Badlands Adventures
…with a little help from your friends!
Before you get started:
The Badlands of North Dakota are an intermingling of state, federal and private lands. We recommend purchasing a US Forest Service map available at the Bismarck Dakota Prairie Grasslands office or either of the Medora or McKenzie Ranger District offices in Dickinson and Watford City respectively. Maps are also generally available at Theodore Roosevelt National Park visitor centers.
95% of the 1 million acre Little Missouri National Grassland is open to oil and gas development. Less than 40,000 acres in 4 non-contiguous parcels are unavailable for lease and are managed by the USFS as Suitable for Wilderness. They include Kendley Plateau, Bullion Butte and Twin Buttes on the Medora District and Long X Divide on the McKenzie District.
Visit our Prairie Legacy Wilderness page for further information on citizen-proposed permanent Wilderness protection.
Road conditions vary throughout the Badlands. Scoria or gravel roads are usually in pretty good condition though both may become rutted or rough seasonally. Some unpaved roads may become very slippery when wet. We recommend against back road exploration when roads are wet or rain threatens; especially for first timers.
Metal cattle guards are installed in roads throughout ranch country to prevent livestock from crossing fenced pasture lines. If you are not familiar, take it easy until you get the hang of it.
All self-guided adventure tours include times when food, water, gas and modern facilities are at a premium. Be sure to stock your cooler well before setting out. Most communities have full grocery stores, good to great restaurants and well provisioned travel centers. Consider buying local; it’s another way to know a place. Cameras, binoculars, maps, sunscreen and insect protection, and sturdy footwear are recommended.
Take time to walk the land, even for short distances. While Badlands views can be broadly dramatic, there is an intimacy of place that comes with looking closely, and listening.
Southern Badlands Adventure
The Southern Badlands is less impacted by new Bakken/Three Forks oil and gas development. Older wells do exist and Bakken associated infrastructure is present. Additional oil bearing formations are under or entering exploration. 95% of the Little Missouri National Grasslands is open to oil and gas development. Two Suitable for Wilderness areas managed by the US Forest Service are located in the Southern Badlands – Kendley Plateau and Bullion Butte.