Caprock Coulee Nature Trail

A versatile hike showcasing the beauty of North Dakota's iconic badlands.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
6.3 km
Ascent
209 m
Descent
209 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
616 m
High Point
745 m
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Caprock Coulee Nature Trail Map

Description

The Caprock Coulee Trail in Theodore Roosevelt NP's Northern Unit is a classic day hike exploring several unique ecosystems and geological features that make up the badlands. A brochure is available to accompany your hike, and the trek can be as short as 1.6 miles round-trip if you're running short on time. Seen here, though, this 4-mile circuit a great option for everyone in the family, and it "provides a rare look at a densely wooded area of the park," the NPS notes.

Coulees are defined as steep and narrow valleys formed by water, though they are typically dry during the summer, the park notes. French fur trappers in the 1800's first coined the tern "coulée," which means "flow" in French, and the unique patterns formed along the hillsides are a type of erosion caused by rain and snowmelt. Rivulet erosion, as referenced in the trail guide, "is one of the many never-ending systems of erosion taking place in the badlands. With each rain shower, the land changes shape."

There are two trailheads to enjoy this hike, the River Bend Overlook to the west (seen here) and another trailhead just to the east on Scenic Loop Dr. If you're seeking a shorter out-and-back, consider the eastern trailhead instead. Neither water nor restrooms are available at either, though you will pass the visitor center when you enter the park.

Click here to view the complete trail guide courtesy of the NPS.

NPS

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area