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Why Fall is the Best Time to Road Trip Along the Sheyenne National Scenic Byway

Scenes from North Dakota's byways

You’ll find gorgeous scenery and plenty of historical and natural attractions on a North Dakota Road Trip along the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway.

It’s not a secret that my favorite way of travel is to road trip. And by road trip, I mean I like to get off the Interstate and heavily traveled highways and explore the often overlooked scenic byways. As a traveler, I love to travel at my own pace, seek out off-the-beaten-path attractions, and glean tips from the locals- what better way to do all this than by road-tripping?

A few years ago, my husband and I road-tripped all over the state of North Dakota. We traveled along several of the states’ ten scenic byways and backways which included the North Dakota Scenic Byways, Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit, the Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway, and the Enchanted Highway.

I was surprised by how scenic North Dakota is and it quickly became one of my favorite states to travel in. I can’t wait to explore further- especially along the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway.

What is a National Scenic Byway?

Views along the North Dakota Scenic Byway

A National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the Federal Highway Administration for having significant historical, natural, recreational, cultural, archeological, or scenic qualities. There are over 120 National Scenic Byways in the United States and each offers a unique experience to travelers. Those in North Dakota offer the same.

The Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway begins on Highway 21 near Baldhill Dam and continues along Highways 17 and 19 through Valley City, continuing on Highway 21 to Ransom County Highway 13 onto Lisbon.

Things to See and Do Along the Sheyenne National Scenic Byway

Welcome to North Dakota road sign next to a yellow field of grain

Rich in history, the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway is the first recognized byway in North Dakota and weaves together tales of the first settlers as it meanders through the Sheyenne River Valley. Those driving along the 63-mile route will find over 40 interpretive markers that provide information about the Native Americans, Vikings, and Pioneer Settlers who once lived on the land.

You’ll learn about the small farms that dot the landscape and that North Dakota is one of the top producers of wheat, sunflowers, flaxseed, navy beans, corn, and more crops in the country. You’ll see hand-hewn cabins, and take a hike in the Sheyenne State Forest, as you appreciate the colors of the changing leaves and ponder over the mystery of Pyramid Hill.

The byway runs from Lisbon to Baldhill Dam in the north to Lisbon in the south. Here are some things that you won’t want to miss along the way.

Built in the 1950s, Baldhill Dam and Lake Ashtabula offer year-round recreational activities from swimming to fishing to boating and snowmobiling. Fall is the perfect time to view the migrating birds and waterfowl while enjoying a picnic lunch.

Things to do in Valley City ND

a North Dakota train Trestle is amazing to see.

Begin your visit at the Rosebud Visitor Center for an overview of the Sheyenne River Valley. Exhibits include a one-of-a-kind restored 1881 Superintendent’s railcar that has the original furnishings and information about farming in the North Dakota Agriculture Hall of Fame. 

Pick up a map and then walk or drive to see the eight historic bridges located in what Expedia Viewfinder has dubbed the “Most Beautiful City in North Dakota.”

The bridges include the impressive Highline Railroad Bridge, one of the longest and highest single-track railroad bridges in the United States, and the ornate FCSU Footbridge built in 1901 and the only suspension bridge of its kind in North Dakota.

The Medicine Wheel Park is a 30-acre park that includes twelve Native American burial mounds, a solar system model, nature trails, and several scenic overlooks of the Sheyenne River Valley.

The Barnes County Historical Society offers an eclectic mix of curated content from a model train to Gundy the Triceratops which is sure to be a hit with the younger crowd.

In addition to the attractions listed above, you’ll also find unique boutiques and shopping in downtown Valley City as well as lodging and restaurants making Valley City a great spot to relax overnight.

Things to do in Kathryn

old barn set in a field of wheat

Kathyrn was settled by pioneers in the late 1870s. In 1900, the Northern Pacific Railroad line and grain elevator put the small town on the map. Today, Kathryn is little more than a ghost town.

Dating from 100 B.C. to A.D. 600, the Standing Rock State Historic Site is one of the most historic attractions in North Dakota. Four burial mounds are located on the property which gets its name from the large boulder that sits atop the largest mound.

Wadeson Park State Historic Site features a hand-hewn log cabin that has served in many capacities since it was built in 1876. Over the years it has been the community hall, country store, a pioneer home, and an icehouse.

Things to do in Fort Ransom ND

rolling hills and badlands of Fort Ransom North Dakota

Fort Ransom was established in 1867 as a military post to protect settlers and railroad workers who were traveling from Minnesota to Montana from Indian attacks. It was dismantled in 1872 and the materials were used to build Fort Seward in Jamestown. Today, visitors can view where the fort once stood in the Fort Ransom State Historic Site. 

Fort Ransom State Park is a scenic area that offers hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, and unique accommodations in the form of a historic homestead, yurt, and covered wagon for those who wish to extend their stay. You’ll find most of the trails are easy to navigate and provide access to the scenic region.

The Slattum Cabin was built in 1879 by Norwegian immigrant, Theodore Slattum who became one of the most prosperous men in the region. In 1945, the cabin was moved to the nearby Fort Ransom Historic Site before being moved back to its original location.

Pyramid Hill is a mysterious geometric-shaped mound that is often debated. Some believe the hill is formed by glaciers while others believe it to be man-made and one of the world’s oldest pyramids. A Viking statue at the top of the hill is to honor the large Norwegian population in the area.

The T.J.Walker Historic District dates from 1880 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a 9-acre complex of structures associated with pioneer miller and merchant Tyler James Walker that include a one-room schoolhouse and historical museum.

 Fun Things to Do in Lisbon

A field of hay during harvest time in North Dakota.

Lisbon was founded in 1880 and is the southern gateway to the Sheyenne National Scenic Byway. Lisbon is home to the Scenic movie theater, which is the oldest, continuously running movie theater in the United States. Built in 1911, the theater has been completely restored, including the Art Deco marquee. The historic Lisbon Opera House was built in 1889. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of the few remaining prairie opera houses.

Gather with the locals at Sheyenne Speedway and watch the cars fly around the track. 

Sheyenne National Grasslands provide a unique blend of forest, prairie, and farmland with plenty of wide-open spaces. You’ll find the grasslands to be a great birding location with easy hiking trails. It is also one of the only remaining tallgrass prairies left in public ownership in the United States.

Fall is the perfect time to visit North Dakota and explore the Sheyenne National Scenic Byway. Not only are the cooler days perfect for leaving the air-conditioned vehicle and enjoying the many hiking trails you’ll find, but the changing leaves transform the landscape in gorgeous browns, oranges, and yellows.

Have you been to North Dakota? What did you love?

This post is sponsored on behalf of North Dakota.


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Never been out that way before, however I am always down for a road trip with friends and some great music to make it amazing. I love to get some great landscape pictures as well.


Monday 18th of November 2019

ihave never been to either of the dakotas. but what gorgeous photos you took! definitely makes me want to take a road trip through north dakota.

Joy at The Joyous Living

Christy Hoover

Monday 18th of November 2019

This is so beautiful. We are from the south and never had the opportunity to venture to the Dakotas. I would love to ride this route one day.

Ntensibe Edgar Michael

Monday 18th of November 2019

No, I haven't been to North Dakota! I love the green, though. I would love to visit it, though.


Sunday 17th of November 2019

I have never been that far north before but I would love to take a trip one day! Thank you for the gorgeous photos!! Protection Status
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