Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Caprock Coulee Trail

Bench with a view

The Caprock Coulee Trail is a great way to experience the wonder of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The trail starts in a badlands canyon, giving close up views of the intricately eroded land. Slowly the trail climbs, the views growing ever more expansive till suddenly you are at the rim looking across the elaborately carved canyons below.

For a while the trail crosses grasslands, a flowing landscape of color and light, to emerge at a wide valley holding long views of the Little Missouri River far below. The quiet along the trail is profound, punctuated only by the whisper of wind and the small sounds of insect and bird.
In every way, this is a trail to be treasured.

From the junction of I94 and ND22 in Dickinson North Dakota, head west on I94 18.9 miles to Interstate Hwy 85.
Turn right on US-85 and head north for 51.2 miles to the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Take a left and follow the park road 6.4 miles to the Caprock Coulee Trailhead parking lot.
Note that just after you enter the park, there is a visitors center where you will need to pay a fee to park.
Coordinates for the hike: 47.6097800,-103.3563520
Parking / Trailhead amenities
The parking lot is paved and has room for a fair number of cars. There are no facilities at the parking lot.
Trail observations
At the trailhead there are brochures, a map board, and a trail register.
The trail is a big loop that starts out following a canyon, then climbs to the upper prairie and returns along the bluffs above the Little Missouri River. The trail is narrow and often overgrown - wear long pants! Generally the trail is easy to follow and in good shape, though I suspect it could be tough going in spots after a rain storm.
The canyon sections of the trail cut through fairly dense brushy cover. I couldn't help but notice a lot of evidence of bison in the area - I think it would be a really good idea to be very aware of your surroundings through this section. A surprised bison can't possibly be a good thing...
Trail statistics
The trail is 4.37 miles long. The sum of all the uphill climbs is 264 feet.
Trail waypoints
0.01 miParkingParking lot
0.07 miTrailheadGo left on the Caprock Coulee trail
0.79 miSignpostEnd of the self guiding trail - keep on going
0.98 miBridgeBridge goes over a 3 foot wide, 8 foot deep crack - scary
1.42 miRimAt the rim of the canyon - scenic view
1.70 miBenchBench
2.59 miCross the roadCross the park road and follow the trail
2.82 miOverlook parkingSidetrail right to the River Bend overlook
2.86 miOverlookRiver Bend Overlook view - return to parking lot
2.93 miGuardrailTrail follows the guardrail
3.00 miLeave roadwayBreaking away from the road
3.17 miKeep rightKeep right and head downhill
3.31 miStay leftBranch - keep left
3.76 miHead leftBranch - head left
4.37 miEnd of trailEnd of trail
Trail map - Caprock Coulee Trail
Altitude chart - Caprock Coulee Trail Parking Signpost Bridge Cross the road Overlook parking Overlook Guardrail Stay left End of trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Badlands
Terrain: Canyon
Terrain: Hilly
Trail surface: Dirt
Type: Loop
View: Enclosed
View: Open
County: Richland
State: North Dakota
Country: United States of America
National Geographic page about the park
National Park Service web sitei
Lots of useful information about the park and things to do in the area
Printable trail map in PDF format (24 Mb download)
Printable trail map in PNG format (4 Mb download)
Waypoints in CSV format
Waypoints in KML format
Instructions on using a trail description page
Instructions on using a trail map printout
Trails in the surrounding area
Trailheads for Montana and North Dakota (No additional trails)
Trailheads for Montana and North Dakota (No additional trails)
Trailheads for Montana and North Dakota (No additional trails)
Trailheads for Montana and North Dakota (No additional trails)