On April 8th, 2021 I ran the Cottonwood Trail in the badlands of North Dakota. There were no existing Strava segments ahead of time in this remote area of the state so I thought I’d run it, create a couple segments, and see how my times compared.
I started from the northern terminus, just south of Bennet Campground, at 9:57 am. The trail climbed through some amazing rock formations before topping out on a grassy plateau with great views. There were two more descents and climbs before I reached the southern terminus at the intersection of the Maah-Daah-Hey Trail. Then I turned around and ran back to my car, reaching it at 12:36 pm.
I can’t believe how beautiful this trail is! It may be the best in North Dakota. If it were near a larger population center it would no doubt be more popular. I only saw one person, a hiker, whom I startled about 10 minutes before I got back to my car. I consumed 1 liter of water and 200 calories on this sunny day in the 70s. I ran by myself, unsupported, as usual. After creating a couple Strava segments I found out that I was not the fastest on a one way effort, but I couldn’t find any faster times for the out-and-back. Some people loop this trail with the Bennet Trail and part of the Maah-Daah-Hey, perhaps another FKT route for the future.