What’s in North Dakota?

July 28, 2015

by Sarah Thomas + Dallas Jamme, East Coast event crew


Dallas flowing through the grasslands on the Maah Daah Hey trail in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

In the month leading up to our participation in the Fargo StreetsAlive! Festival, we asked as many people as we could if there is anything we should see while in North Dakota. The answers ranged from “there’s nothing but oil fields,” to “Fargo is about all that’s worth seeing,” to “Nope, nothing at all.” Neither of us had visited, so we really had no idea what we had in store, but were excited about the opportunity to explore new territory. Pleasantly, we’ve found that this foreign land has a lot more to offer than we ever imagined and is full of beautiful places and wonderful people.

The Fargo/Moorhead area (connecting North Dakota and Minnesota) was the first stop on our journey through the Peace Garden State. Much to our surprise, the city of Fargo is great for bicycling. Our first trip over the border was an easy ride given the terrain of the Red River Valley, one of the flattest regions on the planet. We explored several options for crossing the Red River, which separates the two states, all of which proved to be very bicycle friendly. Wide shoulders, ample multi-use paths, bike lanes, bike routes and even a new bike sharing system all contribute to making Fargo a wonderful place for people on bikes. Fargo even has one of the most highly-used bike sharing systems in the country (based on average rides per day) and they just released their program with 101 bikes earlier this year!


The bicycle and pedestrian bridge that connects Fargo and Moorhead

With all of this infrastructure as well as a few good bike shops, coffee shops and restaurants, we can see why the Adventure Cycling Association directs their Northern Tier route right through town. Here are some places to visit while traveling in Fargo:

  • Great Northern Bicycle Company—An impressive bike shop that occupies the old train station and even has space reserved for a café.
  • Red Raven Espresso Parlor—Great cold brew coffee from Raven’s Brew in Washington. Also, the espresso shake was delicious.
  • Nichole’s Pastries—Get there right when they open for fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants.
  • The Boiler Room—A basement restaurant that has creative meals and drinks. We really liked the Greek omelet and blueberry pancakes for brunch, with the cheesy (and garlicky) tater tots as a side.
  • Wurst Bier Haus—An authentic German beer house with a huge selection of beers and German comfort food.

Heading west from Fargo, we made a quick stop in Jamestown on our way to Bismarck to bear witness to Dakota Thunder, the world’s largest bison monument. (One of the perks of exploring the country is getting to see all the “world’s largest” novelty exhibitions).


Sarah and Dakota Thunder

Bismarck receives an ever-growing number of cross-country bicycle tourists. Epic Sports, a local bike shop, appears to do a fine job of catering to those tourists, demonstrated not only by their short turnaround time and in-house café, but also by the guest book we were encouraged to sign and the large map of the world hanging on the wall where we could place a pin on our hometown.

The terrain in Bismarck is still fairly flat but an employee of Epic Sports told us about some mountain bike trails that connect to the Lewis & Clark Riverboat Park along the Missouri River. We hiked part of the singletrack trail, which spans a few miles overall and appears to flow between prairie grassland and small wooded areas. We’re always excited to see in-town mountain bike trails, especially in state capitals!

Before leaving Bismarck we learned of a 97-mile, non-motorized trail called the Maah Daah Hey Trail that we had to check out. “Maah Daah Hey” comes from the language of the Mandan Hidatsa Indians and translates to “grandfather, long-lasting.” The mixed history of the area surrounding the trail dates back hundreds of years to when it was used as a trade route by Native Americans and later as a route of passage by the Frontier Army. Scads of backpackers, mountain bikers and horseback riders use the trail today.


Sarah shredding up a hill on the Maah Daah Hey Trail

We set up at Magpie Camp, near mile 58 of the trail, and hopped on our mountain bikes to see what the area had to offer. The trail snaked through the majestic landscape of the region, which is a mix of smooth sweeping grasslands and the jagged terrain of the North Dakota Badlands. Although we were only able to explore about 4.5 miles of the trail before the sun started to set, we added it to our ever-growing bucket list of places to explore in full.

The truth about North Dakota is that it has a lot to offer riders. Whether you’re traveling coast-to-coast or are looking for a riding destination, you’ll find yourself engulfed in a beautiful and unique landscape.


Riding the rim as the sun gets low

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