|3.2 miles roundtrip
- Beautiful views of the valley below
- Shady forest and open prairie landscapes
- Glacial erratics and ice age geology
The previous day, I was sweating and being eaten alive by mosquitoes on what felt like a hot, humid summer day in Glacial Lakes State Park in western Minnesota. In an abrupt seasonal transition, it was a chilly, cloudy fall day in Fort Ransom State Park, and, to my surprise, autumn colors were already in full swing. This trail was an excellent way to view the fall foliage from above, with abundant views of the valley throughout this loop. And at only an hour and a half from Fargo, this park is a perfect place to escape city life without having to travel far.
Since this is a loop, you can start going either direction. I started on the Redetzke Ridge Trail and did the loop counterclockwise (the North Fork Trail starts across the road from where you park and not as conspicuous as the obviously signed Redetzke Ridge Trail), so I will describe the route in that direction. The first half of this trail is completely under the forest canopy, which would provide you welcome shade during the mild uphill climbing on a hot summer day. After winding uphill, the trail emerges from the forest to open prairie and views of the valley, as pictured below -- all that climbing has paid off!
Dogs are allowed on a leash of 6 feet or shorter. While this hike isn't particularly difficult, it may be a little long for younger children; the Little Twig Nature Trail is a better option since it is shorter and has less uphill. Hiking is available in all seasons, but in the winter trails are groomed, so stay to the side to avoid trampling ski tracks or grooming. The short distance and views makes the Valley View Trail one of the most popular trails in the park, but the other two trails, the Redetzke Ridge and North Fork trails, will have significantly fewer hikers.
**Be careful when using navigation apps to travel to Fort Ransom State Park -- they usually suggest entering from the southwest where there is a locked gate; instead you must travel through the town of Fort Ransom and enter from the southeast.**
From Fargo, go south on Interstate 29, and take the exit for North Dakota Highway 46. Turn right, then turn left onto North Dakota Highway 18 in about 13 miles. Turn right onto North Dakota Highway 27 and continue straight for a while, driving through the Sheyenne National Grassland and the town of Lisbon. Turn right onto 119th Avenue (Hjelle Parkway) as indicated by a green sign for the town of Fort Ransom and a brown sign for Fort Ransom State Park. After the road curves to the west, turn right to continue on Hjelle Parkway, as indicated by the brown sign for Fort Ransom State Park. Keep following signs for the park as you drive through the town of Fort Ransom -- there are a couple turns to continue on Hjelle Parkway, but they are pretty obvious since this is the main route through this tiny town. Turn left onto Hjelle Parkway after driving through town, then turn left ahead at 2nd Street to enter the park. Stop by the visitor center to pay the entrance fee, then continue on 2nd Street, turning right at the T intersection ahead. Follow signs for the Redetzke Ridge Trailhead and turn left at the Y intersection ahead. Park in the small gravel lot on the right side of the road.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
All vehicles must pay the $7 daily or $35 annual entrance fee (perfect if you plan on visiting North Dakota State Parks 5 or more times in a year) either in the visitor center (when staffed) or at the self service station. More information available at the North Dakota State Parks entrance fees page. You can also order an annual vehicle entrance permit online through the North Dakota State Parks Online Reservation System. There are no facilities at this lot, but there are restrooms and water available at the visitor center.