Oak Leaf Loop (Sheyenne National Grassland) 28-Sep-2021

The Sheyenne National Grassland sits about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Fargo, North Dakota. It’s the only national grassland on the tallgrass prairie; The National Park Service manages another remnant of this prairie type in Kansas. Tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres (68 million ha) of North America, but within a generation most of it had been transformed into farmland. Today less than 4% remains intact.

This grassland came to our attention when we were scouting for hiking opportunities near Fargo. We found the 4 mile (6.4 km) Oak Leaf Loop Trail on its eastern side. This loop is an aside to an out-and-back segment of the 4,700 mile (7,520 km) long North Country Trail (NCT), so win-win, we’d get to experience a tiny bit of that trail too. 🙂

We had the hazy notion that “grassland” meant we’d be hiking across an endless, featureless sea of grass. Ah, no. We were on well-signed trails that wind across expanses of tall grasses and forbs and through patches of woodlands hosting various species of oak. With Fall colors starting, this proved to be an extremely pleasing and colorful mix of open and enclosed country. That, combined with near-perfect weather for hiking 😎, made for a delightful morning away from town.

Checking the register near the trailhead at Jorgen’s Hollow Campground
Heading east on the Oak Leaf Trail
Through a park-like patch of forest
Fall colors
More color
Coming to the edge of the woods
On to the prairie
Tallgrass prairie
Big tree on the prairie
Following the NCT back into the woods
A pleasing mix of prairie and woodland
Near-perfect weather
Fall colors
The Oak Leaf Loop (red line)
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