Looking for a Completely Nature Hike? Check Out Head of the Mountain Nature Preserve!

Park Overview:


The Head of the Mountain Nature Preserve is located in the southeast corner of North Dakota, close to the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. It lies to the southeast of the city of Rutland.

From the city, you will need to drive south for four miles, another three and a quarter miles to the east, and a final two miles further south, where the southeast corner of the preserve will come into view.

The nearest airport to the nature preserve is the Hector International Airport to the north in the city of Fargo, ND. From there you can drive down Interstate 29 and turn right to N Dakota 11 W on to Rutland, ND.


The Head of the Mountain Nature Preserve is a pristine environment where there is an abundance of vegetation that includes trees, grasses, and wildflowers. The place is likewise teeming with animal life. Humans, however, are only allowed in the area if they go there on foot. It is for this reason that the only human events that have taken place in the preserve are the hikes of nature enthusiasts who visit the place either to commune with nature or to scientifically study its flora and fauna.

The terrain of the area speaks of its literally earth-shaking geological history that transpired in the last couple of thousand years. A steep escarpment separates the hills and peaks of the west and south sections of the preserve from the flat lands to the east and north. Such escarpment could only have been caused by the erosion of sedimentary rocks, or by a vertical drop of the earth’s crust, perhaps due to a fault.


There are no man-made structures within the Head of the Mountain Nature Preserve, as these would defeat the purpose of its existence. It is a huge tract of land that is intended to show modern humans how the earth looked, smelled, sounded, and felt before human beings came along.


Only passive activities are allowed by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the place. You can go hiking under the shade of American Elms, Burr Oaks, and Green Ashes, whose feet are covered with an understory of buckbrush, burdock, and wood nettle. You can also cross-country ski in winter.

Bird watchers also enjoy the preserve, as they are sure to find some upland plovers, savannah sparrow, Canada geese, sharp-tailed grouse, and other kinds of ducks. Further, animals include white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, red fox, and cottontail rabbits.

Those who love flowers can feast their eyes on the blankets of wildflowers that grow among the grass in spring. There are dogbanes, Canada thistles, purple coneflowers, wild honeysuckles, and plenty more.

You are, of course, allowed to take from the forests the only thing that true nature lovers can — pictures.

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Park Details:
Park Name: Head of the Mountain Nature Preserve Showers: No
State Park: No Electrical Hookups: No
Address: Fort Ransom State Park
5981 Walt Hjelle Parkway
Playground: No
City: Fort Ransom Acreage: 100
State: North Dakota Horses Allowed: No
Zip Code: 58033 Picknicking: No
Phone Number: (701) 973-4331 Boating: No
Toll Free Number: Canoeing: No
Reservation Number: Water Skiing: No
Email Address: frsp@nd.gov Fishing: No
RV Sites: No Swimming: No
Pets Allowed: No Restaurant: No
Hiking: Yes Reservations Allowed: No
Biking: No Others: Cross-country skiing is allowed
Cabins & Lodging: No Tent Camping: No

The public are free to hike or ski in the nature preserve provided they observe the hikers motto “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”.

Hours and Seasons:
Hours and Seasons

Head of the Mountain Nature Preserve is open for the whole year.