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Did you know that North Dakota has a natural waterfall?
At first, neither did we! As soon as I heard about ND’s only registered waterfall, I knew I had to see it. Fabian took a little bit more convincing, but eventually he was just as committed as I was! North Dakota’s solitary waterfall is called Mineral Springs Falls, located between Fort Ransom and Lisbon in the Sheyenne State Forest.
Before we get started, a few cautionary notes! This waterfall will not rock your socks off. I just have to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I was not disappointed with our trip! But you probably won’t be enamored with it in itself. The water comes from an underground spring (Mineral Springs), and only drops about eight feet. Yes, you read correctly. This waterfall is tiny. Still, my husband and I made the journey to go see it. Despite it’s unimpressive size, Mineral Springs Falls is a win for two reasons: 1. It is the only thing of its kind of the entirety of North Dakota, and 2. Combined with Autumn’s changing foliage, the trail to get there is truly beautiful. Is that reason enough for you? Then read on :).
Distance: 4 mi. round trip.
Peak Elevation: 1140 ft. above sea level
Duration: 2 hrs.
Overall Difficulty: Easy!
Whether it’s out of pride or shame, this place is hidden under the shroud of secrecy by North Dakotans. Not many people know about it, even those born and raised in state. The nice thing about this is that the hike is not at all crowded. The negative thing about it is that it’s not exactly easy to find directions on how to get there. Luckily, you have me! I’ve already struggled through finding this place so you don’t have to.
Written instructions: If you coming from the West, get yourself to Fort Ransom first. This place is tiny, so don’t worry about where exactly you are in Fort Ransom. You want to head Southeast from there, driving along the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway (also known as Valley Road). As you go along you’ll eventually turn right onto 122nd Ave SE (follow signs for the Sheyenne State Forest). About a mile down 122nd you’ll pass over a bridge, crossing the Sheyenne River, and shortly after that you’ll be in the parking area! This area isn’t very clearly marked (we might have passed it if other cars weren’t already there), so keep in mind that it’s the first stop you’ll hit that has a directory.
If you’re coming from the East, get yourself to Lisbon. Leave Lisbon on Highway 27 (67th St. SE). You’ll drive for about ten miles before turning right onto 122nd St. SE. Follow this road north, all the way to the trailhead. If you hit the bridge going over the Sheyenne River, you’ve gone too far! The parking area is shortly before that bridge, marked only be a state park directory, so keep your eyes peeled!
Now I have to admit, written instructions only work for me about the half the time. I like visuals! That’s why physical maps and map apps are invaluable to my travel experience. In the event that you are like me, here are a couple things to note if you intend to use a service like Google Maps. “Sheyenne State Forest” does not come up on Google Maps. “Mineral Springs Falls” does not come up on Google Maps. Through trial and error (and mostly after the fact, unfortunately…) I have realized what does!
Google Maps (or whatever map app): The trailhead for this hike is called “Waterfall Trailhead” in Google Maps. So original, right? Put that in, along the state, and it should pop up. Be sure to check that the location is between Fort Ransom and Lisbon to be safe! If that doesn’t work, this is the physical address of the trailhead: 6246 122nd Ave SE, Lisbon, ND 58054. And if even that is being ornery, here are the GPS coordinates: 46.502647, -97.877965.
You’re welcome; nothing can stop you now.
Difficulty & Duration
I rated this hike as easy because my husband and I were able to complete the entire thing quite leisurely, with our dogs in tow (and they don’t make anything simple or painless, ever). Even with their constant pulling (my arms were sore the next day!) over all the excitement, the hike was very relaxed. There isn’t much incline or elevation gain, making for a pretty level trail all the way through. There is some uphill work on the way back, but it’s miniscule.
The only thing I can think of that would give someone a hard time with this hike is the distance. Four miles can be quite a stretch for someone who isn’t used to long walks. Still, there are ways to adjust. Anyone who is struggling can simply slow their pace to suit their needs, and this can be done quite easily because the trail doesn’t see a lot of foot traffic. Take your time! Furthermore, this hike doesn’t loop around. After walking the trail’s two mile length, you’ll find the waterfall, along with picnic tables and a seating area. This offers a great opportunity for rest if someone needs a breather before taking on the two miles to get back to the parking lot.
Overall, I found this hike to be super chill. If you’re worried, make sure to take advantages of the flexibility this trail has, as not all hikes allow for slow paces and rest stops. Good luck!
Unique Traits & Memorable Moments
I found this trail to be interesting because it provides views of so many different landscapes. In my experience, hiking trails tend to provide paths into specific environments, and those environments remain the same for the entirety of the hike. On Mineral Springs Falls Trail, it felt like every turn revealed a whole new world! We observed beautiful Fall foliage from within the forest, fields of prairie grass, views of the valley from atop small hills, a variety of plants, tiny streams, aboveground runoff from the underground spring, and of course, the waterfall area. I love other hikes just as much, but this is the first that’s had me seeing something fresh so frequently.
Fabian and I have taken our pups on short trail walks within town, but this was their first big hike! They had a blast. If you plan on taking your dogs along for this hike, here are some tips:
- Bring extra water! It’s easy to remember water for yourself, but don’t forget that the four-legged ones will need some as well.
- If you plan on sitting down in the picnic area for lunch, consider bringing a baggie of dog food so they can partake also. A four mile hike combined with a lunch break can be a big chunk of time. Add that to prolonged physical activity? We’d all be hungry!
- Don’t forget to bring some bowls along so they have something to eat and drink out of. I can’t believe the number of times I’ve brought water and no bowl. So ashamed.
- Pack a towel. This is something that doesn’t need to come with on the hike, but would be useful to have ready in the car. When we went, this hike was muddy! It wasn’t worth it to try to keep the dogs out of the mud, so we just let them enjoy themselves. By the time they got through with the mud and the waterfall, they were a wet mess. We toweled them off before getting them back in the clean car, thank goodness!
- Let them have fun! Dogs don’t get the opportunity to hike everyday, just like us, so give them some leeway to enjoy the special activity.
Bonus: both our dogs slept for the entire rest of the day after returning from this trip. Peace and quiet ♡.
The One and Only:
Finally, of course, this trail is special because it has North Dakota’s only waterfall! The waterfall is small, but the area around it is beautiful in the Fall, not mention fun to explore! We had a great time roaming, taking pictures, and relaxing in the picnic area before packing it in and heading back down the trail.
It may not look like much, but I won’t hesitate to say that I think it’s just beautiful. (And one of a kind!). I’d love to here about the one-and-onlys in your own states below!
Safety disclaimer: 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! Additionally, make sure to follow all safety protocols as outlined by the recreation departments in charge of each site you choose to visit. Be safe and 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.