Where is Little Missouri State Park
Located near the confluence of the Little Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea, Little Missouri State Park resides entirely within western North Dakota. The park’s main feature is its acres of badlands terrain. Most of this terrain is only accessible by trail. The park also contains campgrounds suited for hikers and horseback riders. The closest city to Little Missouri State Park is Killdeer, North Dakota. Further along from the park, located 322 miles west (a five-hour drive) is Grand Forks, North Dakota. And 277 miles north (a four hour and forty five minute drive) is Rapid City, South Dakota. The Park is also 153 miles (a two hour and thirty minute drive) northwest of Bismarck, North Dakota. The state park also lies near several other outdoor recreation areas in North Dakota. These areas include Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
How Large is Little Missouri State Park
Little Missouri State Park covers a total area of around 6,500 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of badlands that are only traversable by foot or horseback. The trail system contained within Little Missouri State Park provides visitors with access to more than forty-five miles of trails designated for hiking and equestrian use.
Little Missouri State Park Weather
The weather at Little Missouri State Park varies frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 50- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 5- and 30-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Little Missouri State Park receives around 45 days of rain per year. These 45 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 17 inches. Little Missouri State Park also experiences snowfall throughout every year. Snowfall in the park is normally heaviest in the winter months of December, January, and February. The park’s yearly snowfall totals average around 35 inches per year.
When did Little Missouri Become a State Park
Little Missouri State Park first became a state park in 1971. The state park was created to provide public access to the region and badlands. Over the years, visitor experiences at Little Missouri State Park have been widely affected by the oil drilling industry. In 2011, drilling started in Killdeer and included portions of land in Little Missouri State Park. Four years later in 2015, oil drilling in the area increased and several oil companies even took on the effort of moving hiking trails around well sites. A year later, the governor of North Dakota asked the oil companies to maintain the area's landscape as much as possible. Today, oil drilling and outdoor recreation consists hand in hand inside of the state park. However, much of Little Missouri State Park still remains unaffected.
Things to do in Little Missouri State Park
Little Missouri State Park offers visitors the opportunity to participate in a variety of outdoor activities. The most popular adventures and experiences found within Little Missouri State Park are discussed and listed below.
Join an Interpretive Program
While there is no set visitor center at Little Missouri State Park, the park still hosts a variety of interpretive programs throughout the season. These programs normally discuss topics relating to the park’s ecology, geology, geography, and history. The schedule for these events is most commonly found on the park’s website. Occasional posters are displayed in the park’s campground. All interpretive programs offered at Little Missouri State Park are led by knowledgeable park staff or experienced volunteers who are very familiar with the park and its ecology and history.
Hike a Trail at the Park
The trails at Little Missouri State Park offer visitors the ability to traverse the badlands of North Dakota. Much of Little Missouri State Park is only accessible by trail. The park’s trail system contains more than forty-five miles of hiking trails. These trails vary in difficulty and condition. However, there are hiking opportunities in the park for hikers of all experience levels. Updated trail conditions and closures are normally posted on the park’s website.
Horseback Riding in the Park
In addition to trails designated for hiking use, the trail system at Little Missouri State Park also maintains trails designated for equestrian use. In fact, Little Missouri State Park is a designated North Dakota horse park. The park contains numerous horse corrals and other amenities designed to suit horseback riders and their needs.
Take a Picnic in the Park
Little Missouri State Park contains some areas perfect for a quiet and relaxing picnic. Visitors can decide between taking their picnic into the backcountry for an isolated picnic experience or utilizing the park’s modern picnic area. The park also contains several larger picnic pavilions that can be rented to accommodate large groups of visitors looking to gather in the great outdoors of North Dakota.
Wildlife Viewing in the Park
Little Missouri State Park provides a home to a variety of wildlife species. Common species frequently spotted by visitors of the park include mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, golden eagles, and a variety of others.
Camping at Little Missouri State Park
The campground at Little Missouri State Park contains both primitive and more modern campsites. The modern campsites are equipped with electricity. Visitors looking to stay in the park can reserve campsites online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay during peak season should make their reservations several weeks in advance.
When to Visit Little Missouri State Park
Little Missouri State Park is open seasonally from May to October. The park receives its highest visitation during the months of June, July, and August. Visitors looking to beat the occasional crowds that descend upon Little Missouri State Park during these months can plan their trip for May or September. However, visitors traveling to the park in June through August will find the warmest temperatures most suited for overnight camping. Occasional snowfall has also been known to appear in the state park during all months of the year except for June through August. Wildlife in Little Missouri State Park is most active in May and June.
Must Have Items to bring to Little Missouri State Park
Little Missouri State Park grants visitors the opportunity to explore the backcountry badlands of North Dakota, unplug from their modern city lifestyle, and enjoy peaceful and inspiring outdoor scenery. However, visitors won't be able to explore the park successfully without the aid of a few supplies and pieces of outdoor recreation equipment. Essential items all visitors should bring along with them to Little Missouri State Park are listed below.
Water & Snacks
Water and snacks are two essential items every visitor should make sure they bring along with them to Little Missouri State Park. The average person should pack one to two liters for every hour they plan to spend recreating in the sun. Visitors looking to picnic or stay overnight in the park should also bring along their meals and a cooler to keep everything cold. The best snacks visitors can bring with them to consume while in the backcountry of the park are lightweight, easy to consume, and full of energy. Beef jerky, protein bars, trail mix, and dried fruit are great options. Remember to pack out all of the trash you bring into the park.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
All visitors planning to hike the badlands of Little Missouri State Park will want to bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots along with them on their trip. These boots will provide comfort and protection as visitors travers the rocky and jarring terrain of the backcountry. Visitors looking for added comfort and protection may also find that a lightweight pair of waterproof boots may also be a good investment.
Wildlife Field Guides & Binoculars
Visitors hoping to identify the list of species that call Little Missouri State Park home will want to bring along a North Dakota or North America specific field guide. The best field guides contain color photos and lengthy species descriptions that make identification simple and educational. Birders visiting Little Missouri State Park will also want to remember to bring along their binoculars in order to spot species far off in the distance.
Layers of Clothing
Wearing layers of clothing to Little Missouri State Park is the best way to combat fluctuating temperatures. These layers can be removed or added at will as the temperatures in the park increase and decrease. Visitors looking to camp overnight in the park should especially look to bring several layers of clothing in case nightly temperatures in the park drop significantly.
Where to Stay Near Little Missouri State Park
Visitors looking to stay inside of Little Missouri State Park should make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel in the nearby area can first search for options in Killdeer, North Dakota and the surrounding area. Visitors looking to make the drive to a larger city can drive towards Rapid City, South Dakota, Bismarck, or Grand Forks.
Food Near Little Missouri State Park
The closest food to Little Missouri State Park is located in Killdeer and the surrounding area. The city and the surrounding area contain a variety of restaurants and a few grocery stores where visitors can visit to grab a meal or stock up on supplies. Visitors looking for a larger culinary scene will want to make the drive to Rapid City, South Dakota, Bismarck or Grand Forks. Each of these three cities are significantly farther away from the park then Killdeer. However, each city also contains significantly more restaurants and grocery stores.
Airports Near Little Missouri State Park
The closest airport to Little Missouri State Park is located in Bismarck. The Bismarck Airport is 153 miles and about a two hour and thirty-minute drive from the park. The next closest international airport to Little Missouri State Park is located in Rapid City, South Dakota, and is about 288 miles and a four hour and forty-five-minute drive away from the park.