Forest views, ‘Old West’ trails and golden fields: An ‘opt-outside’ guide for August in North Dakota

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Before the hectic fall schedules begin, many people travel to North Dakota’s national parks or take leisurely strolls in diverse communities at their annual fairs and events.

“Today’s travelers and trailblazers find inspiration in the legends of the past, the diverse landscape, endless outdoor experiences and the vibrant, diverse communities across North Dakota,” says Kim Schmidt, North Dakota Tourism’s Division communications manager.

Consider opting outside to these unforgettable spots.

1. Discover woodlands along the Pembina Gorge

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In the Rendezvous Region of Walhalla, this gorge encompasses one of the largest uninterrupted blocks of woodlands in North Dakota of approximately 12,500 acres and the longest segment of an unaltered river valley in the state. Hike the various trails to discover rare plant and animal species.

2. Sit in the International Peace Garden

The formal gardens at the International Peace Garden front an Interpretive Center and Conservatory that houses a large collection of cacti and succulents.

The formal gardens at the International Peace Garden front an Interpretive Center and Conservatory that houses a large collection of cacti and succulents.Courtesy of the International Peace Garden

This garden is both inspirational and memorial featuring sweeping views across formal gardens to distant lakes and forested hills. But visiting the Garden involves a border crossing into Canada. The Peace Garden advises in its publicity to bring with you a passport or government-issued ID with a copy of birth certificate. Minors should have a birth certificate. Lodging is available in Bottineau, Dunseith, Rugby and Rolla. Best make reservations; the area can be crowded on summer weekends. The Garden itself has camping, but no motels.

3. Hike the Wind Canyon Trail

Visit his popular trail within Theodore Roosevelt National Park to experience the natural beauty of North Dakota. This short, relatively flat trail offers great views of the Little Missouri River. Keep a lookout, you may see wild horses or bison.

4. Bike the Maah Daah Hey trail

This epic 144-mile nonmotorized, single-track trail starts at the United States Forest Service’s Burning Coal Vein Campground 30 miles south of Medora and ends at the CCC campground 16 miles south of Watford City. The route is filled with the majesty of the Badlands and “Old West” establishments to relax with a cold drink after a long day on the trail.

5. Find a sunflower field

The sunflower fields are in full bloom during August. Find one to capture a perfect family portrait.

The sunflower fields are in full bloom during August. Find one to capture a perfect family portrait.

Sunflower fields are in their prime in August and also provide the perfect backdrop for photos. Usually, you won’t have to go far to find a field but they are never in the same place twice. Growers rotate crops as a way to manage and maintain soil health and fertility. What is a wheat field this year, may be a sunflower field next year. Although, a short drive on a gravel road will often result in finding a field in full bloom.

While North Dakota may have the reputation of quiet and quaint towns, vibrant annual celebrations often bring large crowds and unique attractions. Put these three events on your calendar for family fun.

1. Medora Musical

Various dates through Sept. 7

Medora, N.D.

Every year, the Medora Musical is “the rootin’-tootinest, boot-scootinest show in all the Midwest.” This year see the hilarious “Todd Oliver and His Talking Dog Irving” or the lively “Carl & Greta’s Cowboy Sing-Along.” Date and times vary.

Tickets: Adults pay up to $15 while students, ages 7 to 17 will pay $7. Although prices do vary depending on the show and time.

Find more information at medora.com/do/entertainment/medora-musical.

2. Capital A’Fair

Saturday, Aug. 3 – Sunday, Aug. 4

Bismarck

One of the area’s largest summer art fairs held on the Capitol Mall features more than 130 artisans from across the country. Music, great food and performing groups contribute to its festive mood.

Tickets: Admission is free but bring cash to purchase delicious food and unique art.

Find more information at bismarck-art.org.

3. Downtown Street Fair

Friday, Aug. 23 – Saturday, Aug. 24

Grand Forks

The Fourth Annual Downtown Street Fair features artists, musicians, entertainers, kids games, and food vendors lining the streets of downtown. End each night with a special event like the Hugo’s Concert Series featuring Eric Paslay at 8 p.m, on Aug. 24.

Tickets: Admission is free, but be ready to treat yourself to fair food or start your Christmas shopping earlier at the variety of vendor booths.

Find more information at downtowngrandforks.org/downtown-street-fair. Discover events closer to home at ndtourism.com/listings/events.