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King Guest Ranch
Medora, North Dakota

With Gale Johnson


My wife, Jackie, and I arrived at King Guest Ranch with our two horses, Rose and General Lee, a few minutes after noon on August 4, 2021. After getting the horses settled in the very spacious corral, with abundant shade, automatic water trough, and a large tire turned the wrong side out to feed hay, we got our trailer hooked up to the water, electricity, and sewer. Rhonda King had greeted us and showed us how we needed to park in order for our neighbor to have room to also get parked.


Then she offered to take us out on a ride before dark…

We saddle up and rode out with Rhonda leading, along with another guest, Cindy Sue Houser, Jackie, and me. We rode up the hill north of camp and immediately started seeing vistas in all directions and worked our way amongst the hills down to some flatter ground where we came upon a water trough, from which all the horses drank and one dog took a cooling swim.

We circled southeast into a little valley, stopping at another water trough, with more drinking and swimming, and headed towards camp. We stopped once again and took a few photos with the sun setting in the background. It was a nice introductory ride of 2 hours, 5 miles long.

Thursday morning, we were all up early to load up and trailer to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to ride the Painted Canyon…


If you’re passing through the area on I-94, you can get off at Exit 32, go north into the Painted Canyon Visitors Center parking lot, where you can saddle up and ride the trails, which are on Gaia Premium USFS layers.


Once again, Rhonda King led the way and took photos of us along the trail. This turned out to be an awesome ride! We saw a herd of elk while out and I understand there’s buffalo as well, though we didn’t see any. The same riders plus one from the day before made this ride of 3 hours, covering 8.7 miles. We encountered a number of hikers, which wasn’t a problem at all.

Up again early on Friday morning, this time to be hauled to a trailhead a few miles distant by one of Rhonda’s friends, the group consisting of Cindy, Jackie, and myself. We were given instructions as to how to get onto the Maah Daah Hey Trail and ride a section of it back to camp.


The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a 144-mile non-motorized single-track trail that runs from the USFS Burning Coal Vein Campground 30 miles south of Medora to the USFS CCC campground 16 miles south of Watford City. The Trail winds through the Little Missouri National Grasslands in North Dakota's Badlands to form the longest continuous singletrack mountain biking trail in America. Nine fenced campgrounds are accessible by gravel-surfaced roads. The campgrounds include camping spurs, potable water, hitching rails, picnic tables, fire rings, and accessible toilets (via TripAdvisor). Horses and hikers are allowed.


OH, THE VISTAS! This is a rubbernecking ride! Be sure to have loads of space on your phone or camera for photos! The trail is easy to follow and is marked by posts every so often with the image of a turtle engraved near the top. Also, there’s a post every mile with the mile number from the southern end.

We encountered several gates, which were a challenge. The first one happened to be in a location with little room for error, so I chose to get off and operate. These gates are spring loaded, hinged at the top on one side, so it has to be raised straight up on one side arcing up and over to the other side, and once through, is pulled back into place by the spring. That was not so entertaining, but the next one was a little more so, because it was our first attempt to manage this affair horseback! We teamed up! One of us would raise it and hold it up, the other two would ride through, one of those would catch hold of it, and hold it up, and the last rider would pass through. Simple, right? Only if someone didn’t lose their hold with a dancing horse who has never encountered this newfangled affair! By the time we ended our ride, all the horses were pros.

There’s a number of switchbacks along this section of the Maah Daah Hey, with the elevation changing up and down quite a bit. We had a steep climb, to begin with, then became more gradual, for a gain of 400 feet, and at the 2.5-mile mark, began a steady descent of 400 feet. We once again climbed 400 feet, but a bit more gradual, and of course down again.


The footing was of no challenge, being as it was smooth for bicycles and hikers. We met one jogger with his dog and a couple on horseback along the way. Our ride totals were 4.5 hours and 10.7 miles. We stopped many times, not so much for taking rest breaks, but to admire the scenery.


Our host, Rhonda King, and our accommodations were top-notch. I definitely recommend riding at King Guest Ranch in Medora if you can!



King Guest Ranch was one of many trail-stops along the way on a month-long trip that Jackie and I took out west - We rode at Fort Robinson near Crawford Nebraska, then headed to Hell Canyon Horse Camp in Custer, South Dakota; From there we went to JC Stage Stop in Aladdin Wyoming Then on to King Guest Ranch in Medora North Dakota; Then we went into Montana to Sawtooth Lake and Tahepia Lake near Polaris,  and Deerhead Lake by Dillon (the last three stops were all in the Pioneer Mountains), then to Thompson Park near Butte, Montana. Our last stop was at Pole Canyon Ranch in Quitaque, Texas. It was a total of 4500 miles on the truck.


Keep an eye out for them in the for future issues, I’ll have more stories and photos to share from our great trip.


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