In 2018, KX News told the story of a man who’s dedicated years to saving the Maah Daah Hey Trail, a 144-mile long trail that runs from south of Medora to just south of Watford City.
2 years later we meet with him again, with the same mission in mind, and much more progress behind him.
“So, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is our country’s longest, continuous, non-motorized single track trail.” Watford City Resident Nick Ybarra said.
The 100-plus mile-long trail didn’t just grab Ybarra’s attention overnight, that happened nearly two decades ago.
“What got me on the Maah Daah Hey was an invitation from a friend to come out and ride our mountain bikes on the trail,” Ybarra said.
He calls it the experience of a lifetime.
“We came out to the trail, hit (inaudible) campground, and went south on the trail. Came across Devil’s Pass and that was it, I was ruined. I absolutely fell in love with the Badlands and the Maah Daah Hey Trail.” he said.
After building a genuine love for the trails unique paths and scenic views, years later, he decided to invite others to the trail the same way he once was.
“It was a life changing experience for me and I just said I want more people to have that amazing experience in the Badlands.” he said.
He put together a 100-mile mountain bike race in 2012.
“We had 60 racers come out to do the Maah Daah Hey 100 as a free event.” Ybarra said. “and every single one of them got lost on the trail because the trail was so overgrown and in such rough shape at that time.”
The trail Ybarra first grew to know wasn’t the same.
Around 2009, the U.S. Forest Service began to lose funding for all trails nationwide, forcing the Maah Daah Hey to lose nearly 50% of its trail, but thanks to Ybarra and a few others who made a volunteering vow in 2013 to always keep the trail up, it has now made a complete 180.
“One mile at a time we just chipped away at this huge trail system and found that it was possible,” Ybarra said. “With help and with passion and with determination we were able to bring the trail back that summer and now we’ve done it every single summer ever since.”
Ybarra and a few others have since created the non-profit “Save The Maah Daah Hey” in hopes to keep funds moving into trail restoration, ultimately keeping everybody happy.
“I’m super proud of them. It’s a really beautiful trail, and North Dakotans would be sad to see it go.” Avid Trail Runner Maranda Melvin said.
Ybarra now holds 8 annual Badlands Race Series races which include bike races, trail runs, mud runs, and a list of many new events.