Fabian, Skyler, and I had the chance to conquer our first highpoint this summer by completing the White Butte Trail in North Dakota. Planning on taking on this trail as well? Read below for information on, and directions to, ND’s highest point!
Distance: 1.5 mi. (thereabouts)
Peak Elevation: 3,506 ft. above sea level
Overall Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
The first thing to keep in mind when heading to White Butte is that the point is on private property. At the time of writing this, Google Maps doesn’t give the proper directions to get to the trail, which is likely due to that fact.
For all my readers who do well with written directions, read on! For those who are better with visuals (like me), I’ve got you covered too; follow along with the maps! To get to White Butte, you’ll need to be on Highway 85, near Amidon, ND. If you are coming from the West, drive through Amidon; if you are coming from the East, turn before you get to Amidon. There is a clear sign that indicates which turn to take to White Butte; this turn will put you on 140th Ave SW.
Drive south along this road. You’ll pass Badlands Auto — keep going. Soon after, you’ll need to make a right onto 69th St. SW. Drive a little further until you reach a mailbox to the right and a dirt road to the left. Place a donation to the landowners in said mailbox before proceeding down the dirt road to the trailhead. The suggested donation at the time of writing is about ten dollars.
According to some other sites, the dirt road to the trailhead is sometimes closed off. When we went, there weren’t any indicators that the road was closed, so we drove to the end of the line and then walked the trail. If there are signs that the road should not be driven on, please respect the land owners’ wishes! Park by the mailbox and walk to the trailhead.
Difficulty & Duration
This hike begins with a short walk, so there’s some time to warm up and stretch if needed. There is incline throughout the trail, but none of it is horribly steep. The trail also has lots of ups and downs, so there are breaks from the incline areas as you make your way to the top.
I rated this hike as easy/moderate because it was such abreeze for our family. Skyler, our six-year-old, was able to keep up with us throughout the trail without a problem. We had virtually no complaints from him about fatigue, which is rare. We made it to the summit and back in just an hour, so I believe that even non-seasoned hikers can be successful on this trail if they take their time.
Although this hike didn’t give us any trouble, there are some factors to take into consideration. These factors are what can turn this easy trail into one of moderate difficulty. The first is the white sand that covers most of the path. It was mostly dry when we went, but we did notice that the wet spots can get slippery. Additionally, there is high grass in some areas. The trail is still clear to follow, but I wouldn’t want to go through those spots without pants on! Keep these things in mind as you plan for this hike!
Unique Traits & Memorable Moments
The View: Although the view from the peak of White Butte is beautiful, this trail is one of a kind because the scenery is interesting and unique throughout. You don’t have to reach the top to see something grand; it’s all around you from trailhead to summit!
Wildlife: During our ascent to the top of White Butte, we saw rabbits and deer.* We were able to get pretty close to the rabbits, which was special (especially for Skyler), and we saw the deer in the valley below after we had reached the top. Many other hikers have reported seeing snakes in this area, particularly rattlers, so be on the lookout should you take on this trail!
Firsts: This hike is now a special memory for my family, because it was the first completed highpoint of many to come! This first-time excitement was only compounded by the fact that we conquered it on Skyler’s birthday. He got to spend his transition from five-year-old life to six-year-old life on the highest point in North Dakota. What a happy birthday! (:
If you have hiked, or plan on hiking this highpoint, please feel free to share your questions/comments below! (:
*This comment is made based on my experience hiking this particular trail. When hiking, always be aware of the wildlife that could be present on a trail, and take the necessary precautions. Just because I haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there, or that you won’t see it! Be prepared.
Medical disclaimer: As always, consult a physician before you and/or your child begin an exercise regimen or engage in rigorous outdoor activity. The general information above is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you experience any problems or have concerns when engaging in physical activity, stop and contact a doctor before proceeding with additional workouts.