North Dakota can generally be divided into three major geographic regions: The Red River Valley, the Missouri Plateau, and the Great Plains, which is accentuated by the Badlands.
The Red River Valley and the Great Plains consist mostly of flat prairie land and farmland, with slight variations in elevation. However, to the south and west of the Missouri River is an area characterized by rugged valleys and buttes called the Slope.
The Missouri Plateau and Drift Prairie, located to the west of the Red River Valley, is bordered by the state’s most recognizable mountains, the Turtle Mountains. The Turtle Mountains are one of the only forested areas in the region and rise about 600 to 800 feet above the surrounding area, covering approximately a thousand square miles.
The Badlands are a unique feature in North Dakota and feature exposed surfaces of stone and clay that eroded into prominent rock formations. The Badlands cover approximately 190 miles and are 6 to 20 miles wide. White Butte, the highest peak in North Dakota, is located in the Badlands.
Other notable mountains in North Dakota include the Killdeer Mountains, two flat-topped buttes that cover a total area of approximately 115 square miles. The Killdeer Mountains rise about 700-1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape. One of the largest deciduous forests in southwest North Dakota is located in the Killdeer Mountains.
Although North Dakota is not a very mountainous state, additional noteworthy mountains include Devils Lake Mountain, Blue Mountain, Lookout Butte, and the Sentinal Butte. North Dakota natives often refer to their mountains as buttes, due to their lack of elevation and prominence.
Little Missouri State Park offers 47 miles of hiking trails within the picturesque Badlands. Horseback riding is also a popular activity in the area and trails are designated a green (easy), blue (moderate), and black (difficult) so travelers can easily determine which trail is best suited for them.
Turtle Mountain State Forest is 7,500 acres of wooded North Dakota wilderness located along the popular Turtle River. Turtle Mountain State Park is a popular area for year-round outdoor recreation opportunities like camping, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.
Fort Ransom State Park is located in a heavily-wooded valley along the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway and is a popular destination for kayaking and canoeing. In winter months, visitors take advantage of the terrain to snowmobile and cross-country ski. A short portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail also winds through Fort Ransom.
Located in the beloved Turtle Mountains, Turtle Mountain Resort sits along the shores of Lake Metigoshe and is the ideal place to stay for visitors looking to experience the Turtle Mountains wilderness. Turtle Mountain Resort offers a variety of cabins, camping, and accomodations year-round.
Valley City, “the city of bridges,” is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers due to its proximity to the North Country National Scenic Trail and variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. Located in the heart of the scenic Sheyenne River Valley, visitors can experience fall foliage along the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway or take a historic bridges tour and visit 11 historic bridges in the area.
Fargo, located within the Red Valley, is the largest community in North Dakota. Fargo is home to several historic museums, conservation areas, and parks. Fargo is nicknamed “north of normal,” and is notoriously quirky and cultural. Its close proximity to Moorhead, Minnesota also makes Fargo a popular stop for visitors traveling through both states.