Achenbach and North Achenbach Trail Loop

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Achenbach and North Achenbach Trail Loop is a 18.2 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Watford City, North Dakota that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, and backpacking and is best used from April until October.

Distance: 18.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,358 feet Route Type: Loop

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bridge out

over grown

no shade

no dogs

hiking
over grown
23 days ago

Though the National Park Service was closed due to COVID-19, we were able to obtain a (free) backcountry permit for May 14-17. We planned to take three days (two nights) to finish but ended up completing it faster than anticipated. We parked at Juniper campground and then walked to the Buckhorn Trailhead, which allowed us to do the loop counter-clockwise and save one of the river crossings until the very end. I’d estimate we covered a little over two miles an hour over the course of the hike. The terrain is ever-changing and there are some portions that are quite challenging, especially when carrying a heavy pack. As others have mentioned, the trail markers are very difficult to see at times and it’s easy to get off-course. Thanks to our downloaded AllTrails map, we able to correct our missteps fairly quickly. We made the risky move of waiting until we were near exhaustion before picking out a campsite, and would not recommend others do the same. We ended up camping near the river and enjoyed dinner and boxed wine on the shores of the little Missouri. We planned to filter our water, but unfortunately the river resembled thick chocolate milk and our little Sawyer Squeeze was not a fan. Bringing your own water is probably the best choice for this hike. Throughout the journey, we saw bison, big-horn sheep, deer, lots of birds, and a few snakes. We heard lots of coyotes and owls at night! The river crossing was a fun change of pace. Since we ended with the crossing nearest Juniper campground, it was a perfectly refreshing way to end a great hike! Get out and enjoy North Dakota: where the skies are our oceans.

hiking
8 months ago

fun trail, ran into a few bison, takes you away from the road and into the back country .

hiking
over grown
9 months ago

Just hiked the Achenbach loop with my brother-in-law on the Labour Day long weekend. One of the most interesting and beautiful trails I’ve ever done. Incredible landscape and views, one of the best wilderness camp spots I’ve ever found, and bison everywhere. The downsides are that it is a bit overgrown, and it can be very easy to get lost. I would be hesitant to attempt it for the first time without downloading the All Trails map and using the GPS. This worked extremely well for us, although on the south sides of the river it was still difficult to find the trail, and in a few places the marked trail differs from the original trail route on the map and the route shown on All Trails. It also branches onto animal trails a lot, and some of the markers are difficult to find or have been knocked over by the bison. So if you are at all uncertain about the path you’re on, check your app. It’s also a challenging trail with no tree cover, and as many people will tell you, you need to have a solid water plan. Here was our strategy (which worked really well): we parked at the Oxbow Overlook and hiked the North Achenbach to the Juniper Campground. At the campground we topped up our 3L hydration packs and added an extra 4L in a dromedary bag, then hiked into the hills on the South Achenbach to camp. Between the 2 of us we had about 1L or less left when we got back to Oxbow the next day. I’d also recommend doing it later in the year, when the bison are more docile and the creek beds and low areas are dry (the mud out there can be a nightmare). I’d also recommend hiking sandals (not flip flops) for the river crossings.

hiking
bugs
muddy
no shade
off trail
rocky
scramble
9 months ago

We decided to do the trail in one day, going counterclockwise starting at Juniper Campground. Our gps map saved us a few times as the trail isn't clearly marked nor well trodden especially on the south Achenbach near the river. I wouldn't recommend this hike for anyone without great navigational tools/skills or physical fitness. Really beautiful scenery...it reminded me of the Cappadocia region in Turkey. Two river crossings were involved. Both of us were up to our knees and the water was muddy. Hiking sandals is the best footwear for this. The river bottom was pretty solid. All in all, it is doable as a day hike but keep your wits about you and reassess your pace around Oxbow lookout where the adjacent road ends.

hiking
no shade
rocky
10 months ago

hiking
bridge out
over grown
rocky
scramble
Sun Apr 28 2019

I loved it. This was a hard trail and not for a novice. The markers were hard to find because they were knocked down by the buffalo. It was a great accomplishment and if you wnt a challenge then I highly recommend it.

hiking
Tue Jun 12 2018

My wife and hiked this trail in early June 2018 and loved every mile of its ever-changing scenery! We planned two nights out but heavy rains kept us off the trail and sleeping in our car in Juniper campground the first night. This place is solitude at its best—we were the only ones in the backcountry on a Saturday. The trail is challenging and will throw a lot at you: mud, high winds, poison ivy, ticks, river crossings, navigational challenges. These will vary based on the time of the year. We’re fast hikers but our overall average speed was only 1.5 mph. We hiked the trail clockwise beginning at Juniper Campground and got one river crossing out of the way right off the bat. The river was swift and just over waist high. The riverbed is silt here and footing was sketchy. The second river crossing below Oxbow Overlook was easier as the riverbed is more rock than mud and footing was much better. There was a lot of mud and standing water on the trail from the previous night’s rain. The Bentonite clay that forms many of the badland features is very slick when wet and literally cakes the bottom of your boots with a thick layer of mud. We had a GPS with a track of the trail, which came in very handy when we weren’t sure if we had gotten off the main trail or not. Many game trails intersect the trail. Every few minutes you should see an older wooden or newer brown Carsonite post. A few were lying on the ground. A ranger told us they have been working to improve navigation on the trail and this appeared evident to us. We still had to refer to our GPS numerous times. Along the way, we stopped at Achenbach Spring to refill water. It had plenty of flow. It’s a pretty steep descent down to the spring. If it’s wet at all, good luck staying upright. We were getting buffeted by 50+ mph winds while walking the high prairie areas on either side of the spring. We hiked about 13 miles the first day and camped in the valley a couple miles beyond Oxbow Overlook at the base of a butte. The grass in the cottonwoods along the river was too high and tick infested to consider camping in. Erosion of the buttes over the eons has created nice beds of sand at the base of them allowing for beach-like camping. Our boots and socks stayed off the entire evening. It was amazing to sit back at dusk and listen to the wildlife. Given the higher latitude and being at the far western edge of the Central Time Zone, it didn’t get completely dark until after 11pm under a clear sky. Several coyotes barking at our tent jolted us from sleep at 1am--a little frightening to say the least. The next day we finished the trail. The first few miles after camp were spectacular! The climb up toward River Bend Overlook is steep and intersects with the Caprock Coulee Trail. We had to yield to a large bison standing at the intersection. Going right on the CCT follows a narrow ridge with the best vistas on the trail. Once we reached the road, we opted to hike it back to camp to finish out the loop. All-in-all a great, challenging hike. What we liked best about the trail is the variety of habitats, the vistas and wildlife. Some of the amazing badlands formations deserve extra time for exploring. There is not a whole lot of info online about this trail so if you have questions, I'll try to help. Feel free to email me at rbell@digitalcarto.com. Our tips: treat all of your clothing with Permethrin for tick control. Load a track of the trail on a GPS or phone app.; it will save you time. Always keep looking forward for the next trail marker. Stay off the badlands formations if its raining.

hiking
Sun Sep 03 2017

Awesome trail. Took me about 10.5 hrs to complete. Very little water in the late season.

hiking
6 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

Fri Nov 17 2017