Join Date: Sep 2005
Bikes: Cannondale T2000, Gary Fisher Sugar2, Trek Madone 5.2SL
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Late late bump, but if anyone still wonders, the Maah Daah Hey trail is a mostly endurance and concentration ride. I'll disagree with the other poster and say the North Dakota badlands aren't as barren, but there are far fewer visitors.
The trail itself is fairly smooth singletrack. No roots or rocks here. Lots of rolling hills, and with the topography, there's no shortage of short but steep climbs.
What makes the trail fun?
-Solitude. Don't be surprised if you don't see anyone most days of your trip.
-100 miles of singletrack (if you like stuff that flows, this is for you)
-Landscape that you won't find anywhere else
-5 days of uninterrupted riding away from it all
What makes the trip/trail difficult?
-Getting there; I'm guessing 99.8% of Americans are an 8 hour drive or farther from the place
-Stupid Nat'l Parks rule that makes you bypass the northern part of the trail
-Logistics if you want to ride from one end to the other. Getting camp gear from one spot to the next (Dakota Cyclery's shuttle service solves this though)
-Solitude. If something goes bad and you're alone, you're stuck
-As often mentioned, rain will complicate things in a hurry
-Ticks in early summer. By the thousands and thousands. Creeped me out. Couldn't stop for a minute without finding one on you and when we got to camp, you could see them moving in masses on the ground. Dozens of them on our camp gear when we got to camp.
-Depending on when you go, it gets really hot out there. The temperature may be 89 in Medora, but on a hilltop in the direct sun on the MDH, I've had two different thermometers read 120+. You're riding pretty exposed as there are few places with shade and no water except for the occasional cattle stock tank that may have non-potable water.
-Carrying enough water. On a hot day, it's easy to empty 140oz between campgrounds where the wells are. Definitely take a Camelbak and at least 2 bottles if it's a warm day on the trail.
-Some of those wells are often high in sulfur. Hard to stomach and no amount of drink mix covers it up.
-Those cattle that drink from the stock tanks tend to create their own trails, often right alongside the MDH trail and the 2 or sometimes 3 trails alongside each other become impossible to distinguish. You can easily get sidetracked on what you think is the trail. If you ride for 10-15 minutes and don't see the next trail marker in the distance, time to turn around.
-Those cow paths or the trail (you never know which) can become deeply rutted due to rainwater runoff. Our group had a few people, including myself, get caught in those.
The negative list is longer, but it doesn't outweigh the positives if you have the time to do it.