05 Sep A Road Trip through North Dakota: First Stop, Garrison
Both Micah and I grew up in Minnesota a mere hour away from the North Dakota border. We spent lots of time in Bismarck/Mandan as Micah has family there, and in Fargo—it was the “big city” to us back in the day! Despite living so close, we have never really taken the time to explore more of the state. It’s always easy to take the areas closer to home for granted, isn’t it? So, when the opportunity presented itself to take a road trip through North Dakota, we were excited to hit the road. We partnered with North Dakota Tourism on this road trip and our focus was to explore the wide-open spaces and outdoor adventures in the north central region of the state. This is an area that we had yet to explore, so we couldn’t wait to see what it had to offer.
Our first stop on our road trip through North Dakota was Garrison, a small town located on the northern shores of Lake Sakakawea. We spent three days in town camping in a cabin, hiking, kayaking, exploring on a pontoon, ogling at sunflower fields, golfing, and eating at some tasty restaurants. We were surprised to find so many exciting things to do in this small North Dakota town.
Our next destination was Minot, located about an hour away, and we spent our days visiting breweries and a winery, learning at the heritage center, photographing street art, paddling on the river, and of course eating at even more delicious restaurants. We loved the contrast between the two destinations and the wide variety of outdoor adventures in both towns. Stay tuned for our next post on the second leg of our trip, but first, here’s more about our time in Garrison, ND!
Where to Stay in Garrison, ND:
Camping in a Cabin at Indian Hills Resort
Our lodging for the first two nights of the road trip was camping in the Dawn cabin at Indian Hills Resort about 30 minutes from the town of Garrison. The cabin came with lots of room for sleeping; it had two bunkbeds, double on bottom, single on top. We had an air mattress in our car, so we pumped it up to elevate our bed game and give us a little more cushion. The cabin was basic with no running water or bathroom, but it did have electricity and air conditioning, as well as a fridge, microwave, two burner cooktop, wash basin, and a booth for seating. Outside, there was a picnic table, fire ring, and water faucet. The cabin was located a short walk from the showers and restrooms, so it was very easy to access. You also need to bring your own sleeping bags/bedding, and any other gear you might want to use.
We enjoyed staying in the cabin for a couple of nights. We spent time cooking in our cabin and explored the outdoor adventures right on site. Indian Hills Resort is located on the shores of Lake Sakakawea. Plus, there is direct access to several hiking and biking trails from the grounds. We took advantage of both the hiking trails and the lake and it made for a couple of fun days!
Adventures in Garrison, ND:
Pontooning on Lake Sakakawea
If I were plopped down onto Lake Sakakawea with no knowledge of where I landed, I certainly wouldn’t have guessed North Dakota. Lake Sakakawea was such a surprising stop on our road trip and one of the reasons I love exploring less populated regions—you always seem to come across something totally unexpected.
Indian Hills Resort rents out pontoons and they were nice enough to let us take one out for a spin one afternoon. The reservoir is known for its Walleye fishing, but we had a blast just cruising around and taking in the scenery. The shoreline was varied and alternated between rolling green hills and red limestone bluffs. It almost felt like we were boating through the Badlands!
Hiking the Nux Baa Ga Trails
One of our favorite adventures when we were in Garrison was hiking the Nux Baa Ga trails. We stopped numerous times and just stared in awe at our surroundings. This trail system has six miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are several different trails that branch off from two main trail sections, and we hiked the Whitetail Run and Sakakawea Trail.
The Sakakawea Trail is a 1.4-mile loop, and it is partially connected to the Lewis & Clarke Lookout Interpretive trail. The views appeared to be similar from both trails, but the Lewis & Clarke trail was at a slightly higher elevation and included informational signs detailing the history of the region. We were actually intending to hike this trail, but we went the wrong way and ended up on the Sakakawea Trail instead. This wasn’t a bad deal though, as the views from the Sakakawea Trail were dazzling. The hike started out through a stretch of tree covered paths, and eventually, the views opened up to the sprawling lake in front of us. This route gave us Ireland vibes with the rugged coastline and rolling green hills.
Up next was the Whitetail Run trail which is a 1.3-mile loop. Two other trails—the Coyote Loop and the Juneberry trail—link up to Whitetail Run midway through. We didn’t have time to hike the entire length, but if they are anything like the Whitetail Run trail, they would definitely be worth the hike. This path took us through prairies, wooded areas, and next to giant rock formations, all while providing views of Lake Sakakawea in the background.
Kayaking and Hiking at Fort Stevenson State Park
Fort Stevenson State Park is located along the shores of Lake Sakakawea. The park is home to numerous hiking and biking trails, two marinas, beaches, a restaurant, campgrounds, and a museum. We spent the better portion of our day exploring the park—hiking and kayaking were the top two items on our to-do list!
We started off by launching the kayak from a rocky beach near one of the park’s campgrounds. The water was calm as we paddled alongside towering red cliffs. With such dramatic scenery, we could have stayed out on the water for hours, but we had hiking trails waiting for us.
But first, it was time to eat. We grabbed pizza and ice cream for lunch at the Wild Winds Grill before setting out on the nearby trails. We started with a walk through the Arboretum Loop, which is just under 0.5 miles long. This trail was easy and informative and a great way to learn about the native flora and fauna.
Then, we made our way to the Purple Coneflower Loop Trail (1.08 miles) and the Flicker Loop Trail (2.3 miles). The trails run through prairies and along the edge of the cliffs with views overlooking the shoreline. We enjoyed viewing all the different plants, wildlife, and history, we spotted along the way, especially the Prairie Dog Town and historic guard house!
Golfing at Garrison Golf Course
Let me start off by saying we are not golfers. Micah at least knows how to golf, but me, not so much…let’s just say my swing ratio is about 1 in 15 for actually hitting the ball. Ha! That being said, we played a round of golf at the Garrison Golf Course and had a great afternoon in the sun. The course is 9 holes and “Big Gene” will welcome you as you drive up to the entrance.
The course has an onsite restaurant, Big Gene’s Bar and Grill, that we were able to enjoy, as well. It’s always fun to try something new, and a round of golf at the Garrison Golf Course was no exception!
Where to Eat in Garrison, ND:
Four Seasons Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor
The Four Seasons Restaurant was our first stop when we arrived in Garrison. The cozy diner is known for their all-day breakfast, but they also offer a wide range of options for every meal. My chicken salad and Micah’s omelet were both fantastic—we mentioned that we would definitely be regulars here if we lived nearby!
Ye Olde Malt Shoppe
Old fashioned malt shops are always a win in our book, so we were looking forward to stopping by the Ye Olde Malt Shoppe. Well, it didn’t disappoint! The inside is reminiscent of “the olden days” with checkered floors, red booths, and all the antique design touches. We actually ended up stopping here twice—once for ice cream, and another time for lunch—and both visits were top notch. The fry bread taco, burgers, malts, and ice cream were all tasty. Plus, we loved being able to sit outside on the sunny patio.
Wild Winds Grill
Wild Winds Grill is located at one of the marinas inside of Fort Stevenson State Park. It’s a good choice for grabbing food when you are spending the day exploring the park. They are offering a limited menu this summer, so we opted for pizza and ice cream. We ate on the picnic tables outside and it was a nice break from hiking and kayaking.
Totten Trail Bar & Grill
For more of a bar vibe, head over to Totten Trail Bar & Grill. This spot has a pretty large menu consisting of pizza, sandwiches, steak and chicken, and a wide range of unique burgers—think the Mac and Cheese Burger, the Pizza Burger or the Cardiac Burger. I ordered a burger and Micah ordered the Lemon Pepper Chicken with mashed potatoes. Both were good choices!
Big Gene’s Bar and Grill
Big Gene’s Bar and Grill is located at the Garrison Golf Course. After our round of golf, we had dinner and relaxed outside on the patio with views of the golf course. The menu consists of salads, sandwiches, and burgers, and it was a great way to wrap up our afternoon of golf.
Have you ever been to Garrison, ND? What stops would you like to make on a road trip through North Dakota?
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