Try the Achenbach, you’ll like it!

The Journey

No matter what is your level of fitness, you’ll find an accessible section of the Achenbach Trail that matches your skill. The entire loop is nearly 20 miles (some measure it at 16, others at 18, and still more people add the Buckhorn Trail to make it a nearly 30-mile hike — wow! 30 miles?!) It’s one of the most rewarding trails in the North Unit of the
Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

It is more than a day’s worth of hiking – but of course hikers who are more committed than I, set up overnight camp off the trail if they want to hike it in two days. For those two-day hikers, steep climbs and descents provide a workout; two river crossings can be a challenge, but the rewards are unmatched vistas for sunsets and sunrises. Day hikers can take a portion of the trail. If they’re in good shape it can be done in 10 hours.

The trail has several plateaus where hikers can take a break and catch their breath before moving upward.

The section we hiked last week, the “North Achenbach Trail” is only about 4 miles long. One section of it is easily accessible near the famous landmark Oxbow Overlook; here families with young children can get a taste of Badlands hiking.

Further out, the view is spectacular as the trail follows a ridge above the Little Missouri River. Most of the trail is single-track. Several rocky narrow passages give hikers a chance to pick their way through the pass — provided they have hiking boots with good traction.

Much of the northern trail follows a ridge above the Little Missouri River.

An April or May hike on the Achenbach is perfect for milder temperatures to allow for pleasant hikes. Mid-summer temps easily edge near 100 degrees, or more. The reflective surfaces make it even brighter and more uncomfortable. That’s why a spring hike is good, but it’s also less green. We recommend late May or early June when wildflowers and prairie roses are abundant and the sparse patches of grass are most green.

What time of year do you prefer to hike? Have you tried hiking on those 100 degree days? Have you tried a winter hike?

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