08 Mar Road Trip: Winter Adventures in North Dakota
Wide open spaces and winter adventures in North Dakota are the perfect combo, especially in 2021. Getting outside to explore is one of our favorite things to do—we are always up for hiking, biking, skiing, and more. So, when North Dakota Tourism contacted us about heading back to ND for a socially distanced winter road trip, we enthusiastically agreed. We were excited to see more of our neighboring state and to get back on the road again. And, since February was declared Winter Recreation Month by North Dakota’s governor, it was a great time to go!
Last summer we went on a North Dakota road trip and stopped in Garrison and Minot for lots of summer adventures. This time around, we went to the Rendezvous Region, Bottineau, Washburn, and Fargo, with pit stops in Minot and Bismarck along the way. We soaked up winter adventures like cross country skiing, hiking, kicksledding, snowshoeing, and curling. We stayed in adorable cabins and yurts, and we managed to do a bit of cooking. But we also stopped at some fantastic restaurants and even a brewery along the way!
The only thing that put a crimp in our step was the weather during our visit. We happened to visit during the coldest week of the year. Our downhill skiing day got cancelled, the Frostival events in Fargo were postponed, and we had a hard time staying outside for an extended period of time…but we still didn’t let that deter us from having fun. With wind chill temperatures consistently between -50°F and -30°F and actual temps below -25°F the entire week, we made sure to bundle up well when we went outside. And even though we weren’t always outside as long as we would have liked, we still had so much fun exploring all the fantastic winter adventures in North Dakota.
Read on to learn all about our weeklong road trip and winter adventures in North Dakota!
The Rendezvous Region is located in the northeast portion of North Dakota, and one of the areas unique features is the Pembina Gorge. This region was also our first stop on our North Dakota road trip! We spent time exploring Grafton, Cavalier, Langdon, and Mountain.
Some of the adventures we had consisted of curling, hiking, and kicksledding, and we spent a couple of nights in a beautiful cabin. We also had plans to go downhill skiing at Frost Fire in Walhalla, but unfortunately, the cold temperatures closed the hill during our visit. We did swing by for a look at the ski area, and it definitely made us want to plan a return trip to hit the slopes!
Curling at the Grafton Curling Club
Our first stop in North Dakota was in Grafton at the Grafton Curling Club. It’s funny because I was literally saying a week prior that I wanted to try curling. Lo and behold, it pops up on our itinerary as a last-minute addition! How fun is that?! Anyways, we brought our clean shoes and got ready to learn. Wade and Billy were our gracious teachers and we learned all about curling, the ice, scoring, the shoes and brooms, different curling techniques, and more. We even got to throw a few rocks ourselves. After watching the pros give us a demonstration, it was our turn to hit the ice.
Micah gave it a try first and wasn’t too shabby—his second throw even made it to the blue circle. I was a little less graceful and ended up sprawled out on the ice when I let go of my rock. It was hilarious and oh so much fun. We could definitely see ourselves getting addicted to the sport!
After spending the morning curling, we made our way to Sporty’s Bar and Grill in Langdon for some delicious pizza.
Hiking and Kicksledding at Icelandic State Park
Icelandic State Park is located in Cavalier, ND, and it is home to both outdoor recreation, beautiful nature, and a range of interesting history. Some of the historic sights you can find at the park include buildings like the Akra Community Hall and the Hallson Curch, as well as the Pioneer Heritage Center. We briefly checked out some of these spots, and then it was time to get outside and explore nature.
First up, we set out on a hike along the Hillman Trail, which is a 0.75-mile loop trail. Since most of the path runs through a grove of evergreen trees, it was a great trail to stay protected from the wind. We enjoyed the snowy scenery and plentiful animal tracks that we spotted on and around the trail.
We then made our way back to the visitor’s center, where we had the opportunity to try out the parks new kicksleds. What is a kicksled you might be wondering? Well, it’s basically a chair that is mounted on a pair of metal runners, and you propel the sled by kicking and standing on the runners. We took the kicksleds out on the Wildwood Trail and the Shady Springs Trail. It was so much fun to give the sleds a try, especially when we built up some speed going down the hills!
Following our afternoon outside, we ventured into town to warm up with a cup of coffee. We stopped at Blue Fox Coffeehouse and stocked up on some delicious baked goods for snacks and breakfast the next morning.
Where We Stayed: One Majestic Place
Our lodging for the first two nights of the trip was a cabin called “One Majestic Place”, and wow, that name could not be more accurate! We absolutely loved this adorable cabin in Mountain, ND. It came with two bedrooms (one in the loft), bathroom, full kitchen, a cozy fireplace in the living room, lots of board games, and perhaps the best part…a hot tub with gorgeous views overlooking the property.
Our mornings started the same way they ended: with a long soak in the hot tub to relax. It was the perfect way to stay warm after spending time adventuring outdoors. And, the full kitchen made it super convenient to cook several meals during our stay.
Next up, we made our way west to Bottineau, which is located in north central North Dakota, just south of the Canadian border. While we were in the area, we spent most of our time at Lake Metigoshe State Park. Our adventures here consisted of cross-country skiing and sleeping in a cozy yurt, but we also made our way to a couple of fantastic restaurants, too.
Cross Country Skiing at Lake Metigoshe State Park
Neither Micah nor I had been cross country skiing since we were kids, so it was so much fun to give it another go! We checked out skis from the warming house at Lake Metigoshe State Park and set out on the trails nearby. There hadn’t been enough snow for the trails to be groomed, so we were able to set out and make our own path instead. Lake Metigoshe State Park offers about 6.5 miles of groomed cross-country trails, and many more miles of interpretive trails, snowmobile trails, and other multi-use trails.
We loved giving cross country skiing another try and had only one fall the entire time. Not long after we started, Micah had an epic fall that we both couldn’t stop laughing about. After the fall was out of the way, we continued on with our skiing, even if our form left a little to be desired!
Marie’s: Located right on Main Street in Bottineau, Marie’s is a fantastic spot to stop for lunch. They also serve coffee and baked goods, as well as dinner and cocktails. We enjoyed our giant burgers with sweet potato fries and tater tots, and the rest of the menu included items like sandwiches, salads, and lavosh.
A Frame Bar and Grill: The A Frame Bar and Grill is just the cutest restaurant ever. We showed up around sunset and loved seeing the lights all lit up on the outside façade, while the inside was very cozy with a log cabin vibe.
The menu consists of sandwiches, salads, pastas, steaks, shrimp, chicken, and more. Micah ordered the cajun Alfredo pasta with chicken, and when I heard the special was a hot beef (a roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy), I couldn’t resist—they are my favorite! The A Frame Bar and Grill was a great way to wind down our evening before retreating to our yurt for the night.
Where We Stayed: Blue Heron Yurt
Our first yurt stay of the trip was the Blue Heron Yurt at Lake Metigoshe State Park. We checked in and walked into the yurt to find the fireplace roaring inside. Our home for the night was nice and toasty, and came with a futon couch, cozy chairs, a bunk bed, a table with chairs, and a small fridge. The vault toilet was located a short walk from the yurt, and outside we had a patio with chairs and beautiful lake views, a grill, firepit, and picnic table. It was too chilly to utilize any of the outdoor amenities, but we definitely envisioned ourselves relaxing on the patio on a warm summer morning!
Washburn and Cross Ranch State Park:
Next up on our North Dakota winter road trip, was a couple of nights at Cross Ranch State Park. The park is located just south of Washburn, so we had a few adventures in town before soaking up the nature of the park. We explored the area’s history through the Washburn Discovery Trail and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. While we were at Cross Ranch State Park, we spent a couple of nights in another yurt, went hiking and fat tire biking on the trails, and ate dinners at nearby restaurants, Crossroads Bar & Grill and Captain’s Cabin Bar and Grill.
Pit Stop in Minot at With Room Coffee
We passed through Minot on our way from Bottineau to Washburn just in time for breakfast. Last time we were in Minot, we really wanted to stop at With Room Coffee, but it was closed for a break during our whole visit. So, this time around, we couldn’t drive through Minot without giving it another try. The inside of the plant filled coffee shop was closed for remodeling, but we were still able to enjoy our coffee and breakfast to go. Both the coffee and the bagel sandwiches were delicious, and we couldn’t resist getting a couple baked goods for the road, too. We are so glad we were able to stop here on our way through town—hopefully next time we can actually make it inside!
History in Washburn
When we made it to Washburn, it was time to learn about the history of the area, and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center was a great place to start. This museum brings the Lewis & Clark expedition to life in a vibrant way, and we loved browsing the colorful and informative exhibits. We also learned about the history of farming in the area, as well as what life was like in the region over the years.
Once we had walked through the entire museum, it was time to head back outside. We made our way to the Washburn Discovery Trail for a walk with more history and interpretive signs to go along with it. The multi-use trail is 2.2 miles long (one way) and it connects Harmony Park at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center with Washburn’s Riverside Park. We also popped over to the historic recreation of Fort Mandan. Even though it was closed for the winter, we were able to see the outside, and we took a nice walk along the riverside trail.
Fat Tire Biking and Hiking at Cross Ranch State Park
We had a couple of adventures on the docket for our time in Cross Ranch State Park: fat tire biking and hiking. There are roughly 17 miles of trails to explore within the park, and we set off on foot to see some of the Matah Trail. We loved the tall trees we spotted and the steam rising off the Missouri River during our morning hike.
Then, we got a couple of fat tire bikes from the ranger station and set off to ride part of the Ma-ak-oti Trail. The Lower Loop of the Ma-ak-oti Trail runs right along banks of the Missouri River, and the embankment on the other side of the trail kept us sheltered from the frigid winds. Even with such cold temperatures, I actually started to get hot! Riding fat tire bikes is a wonderful way to explore Cross Ranch State Park in the winter—we had a blast.
Where We Stayed: Bagnell Yurt
We stayed in another yurt at Cross Ranch State Park, and this time around it was for two nights. The Bagnell Yurt was pretty similar to our yurt at Lake Metigoshe State Park and equally as cozy. Once again, the morning views outside our door were gorgeous. I loved watching the steam slowly rise off the waters of the Missouri River. It was so peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful.
Our yurt had a bunk bed, futon, table and chairs, small fridge, a gas fireplace to keep us warm, and a nearby vault toilet. The park also offers 24-hour bathrooms with showers at the Ranger’s Station, and we are happy to report we found the bathrooms nice and clean during our stay.
Another cool accommodation feature at Cross Ranch State Park is the full-service cabin (York Cabin) and full-service yurt (Pretty Point Yurt) that offer full bathrooms, full kitchens, air-conditioning, heat, and a gas fireplace.
Micah and I both grew up about 45 minutes from Fargo, so it’s a town we know well. But even though we’ve visited more times than we can count it’s usually to run errands and shop at the mall. We never seem to get the chance to explore the city like a traveler, but this time around that’s exactly what we did.
Our plan for this leg of the trip was to enjoy the Frostival events in downtown Fargo, specifically the Coffee and Cocoa Crawl and the Winter Trails Day. Unfortunately, all of the Frostival events that weekend were postponed due to the weather. It was -35˚F after all! We were bummed that we couldn’t partake in the events, but we still had a great time exploring and couldn’t resist one more winter adventure regardless of the weather. Our revised schedule saw us dining at fantastic restaurants and coffee shops, checking out street art, snowshoeing, and visiting a brewery. All of these adventures in Fargo were a great way to wrap up our winter road trip through North Dakota!
Brunch and Street Art in Bismarck
On our way to Fargo, we made a pit stop in Bismarck for brunch at Terra Nomad and a walk along the nearby Bismarck Art Alley. Terra Nomad has a bright and airy atmosphere, and we loved the aesthetic. They offer a wide range of drinks, from specialty coffees, to teas, and even mimosas and a couple wines. The food menu is built with fresh ingredients and creative combinations for both breakfast and lunch. Some of the items on the menu are smoothie bowls, yogurt & granola, egg sandwiches, salads and wraps.
Before leaving town, we popped over to check out the Bismark Art Alley around the corner from our brunch spot. The alley is located between Broadway Avenue and Main Avenue, and it is filled with beautiful murals and works of art. We loved wandering through the alley while marveling at the paintings. One of my favorite pieces was the mural showcasing a colorful map of North Dakota complete with a bison in the middle.
Street Art, Shops, and Coffee in Fargo
When we got to Fargo, we decided to wander around downtown and explore more street art and a couple of cute boutiques. We first walked through Fargo’s art alley before heading over to the Mario Wall for a bit of nostalgic fun.
Then it was time to browse some goods at a few shops nearby. We ducked into Kindred People, Proper, O’Day Cache, and Stabo Scandinavian Imports Inc. to name a few. I always love the adorable clothes, jewelry, and home décor that I find in downtown Fargo shops.
Before heading back to the hotel for a break, we had one last stop to make. We needed a cup of coffee so we made our way to Atomic Coffee. We may have also snagged a giant, delicious cookie, too!
Snowshoeing at Lindenwood Park
Our last outdoor adventure during our North Dakota road trip was snowshoeing along the Red River in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park.
The park offers 9.8K of trails (going out and back), and they can be used for cross country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing. We always love finding nature in a city, and this park was no exception! As we were snowshoeing along, we felt as though we were far outside of town. But really, we were only a couple of miles from our hotel in downtown Fargo. It was so fun hitting the trails one last time and soaking up one last adventure for North Dakota’s Winter Recreation Month!
Brewery Tour at Drekker Brewing Company
It was high time that we visited a brewery in Fargo, and Drekker Brewing Company was the perfect one to start with. When we arrived, Mark, one of the owners, gave us a peek behind the scenes of the brewery. We learned about how the brewery was started, their brewing process and philosophies, the different types of beer they produce, and all about their gorgeous taproom and brewery which is located in a renovated railroad shop that was built in the late 1800’s.
After all that learning, we were getting thirsty, so it was time for a tasting flight. Drekker Brewing Company brews a wide variety of truly unique beers with fun names to match like Tickle Monster and People Eater! They are always changing up their offerings, and the taps are filled with a rotation of sours, IPAs, ales, Hefeweizen, stouts, and more. One of the most unique beers we tried was the Raspberry Cheesecake beer from the Slang Du Jour series…it may sound strange but it was insanely amazing. The beer was made with raspberries, granola crust, lactose, vanilla, and actual cream cheese. It was thick, creamy, and oh so delicious. We’ve never tasted anything like it!
46 North Pints and Provisions: One of the newer restaurant additions to downtown Fargo is 46 North Pints and Provisions. This gastropub features fantastic artisan food, craft beers, and creative cocktails. There were so many tempting options on the menu that I had a hard time deciding what to get. Ultimately, I ended up with the Fish and Chips, and Micah had the Mac & Cheese with Pulled Pork. Other items that make up the menu include burgers, sandwiches, salads, salmon, steaks and much more. We thoroughly enjoyed 46 North Pints and Provisions and will definitely be back!
Youngblood Coffee Roasters: Before heading out to snowshoe on our last day in North Dakota, we fueled up with coffee and specialty toast from the adorable pickup window at Youngblood Coffee Roasters. Micah ordered the strawberry jam and cream cheese toast, and I had the avocado toast. Both were piled high with toppings and were absolutely delicious!
The Boiler Room: The Boiler Room serves “upscale tavern fare”, and the restaurant is located in the basement of the Loretta Building located along Robert’s Alley. Brunch, lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks, The Boiler Room has it all. Micah’s breakfast casserole was divine and super indulgent—it came with cheesy tater tots, eggs, sausage gravy, bacon, cheese, and spicy maple aioli. I may have snuck more than a few bites to balance out my meal of salad and Knoephla Soup. I had never tried Knoephla Soup—a soup that can be found all over North Dakota—so I figured it was high time! We enjoyed all of our dishes and would love to try more from their large and creative menu again sometime.
Where We Stayed: Radisson Blu Fargo
We stayed overnight at the Radisson Blu in downtown Fargo. The hotel was in a perfect location and a quick walk away from most everything on our itinerary. We loved our modern, spacious room, and the views overlooking downtown Fargo were beautiful, especially at sunset. After a week on the road and a ton of time outdoors, ending the trip at the Radisson Blu Fargo was absolutely wonderful!
Have you ever had any winter adventures in North Dakota?
We visited North Dakota as part of a paid content creation project. Special thanks to North Dakota Tourism, Rendezvous Region, Bottineau EDC, Fargo-Moorhead CVB, and their partners for hosting us on this road trip adventure. As always, all opinions are our own.
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