Looking for a Completely Natural Hiking Experience? Go to Sentinel Butte Nature Preserve!

Park Overview:


Sentinel Butte Nature Preserve is located about three miles south of the city of the same name in Golden Valley County in southwestern North Dakota. It is one of the highest peaks in the state, reaching up to 3,430 feet, although it is only about 600 feet higher than its surrounding area.

To get to the nature preserve from the Sentinel Butte City, you need to drive down south along S West Street then make a right to 161st Avenue SW. After passing 36th Street SW, take the next left turn. You will need to negotiate the street’s twists and curves, including hairpin turns before getting to the butte.

There are two major airports near Sentinel Butte. One is the Dawson Community Airport in Montana, and the other is the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport within North Dakota. Dawson Community is 48 miles to the east of Sentinel Butte, while Dickinson is 50 miles away in the opposite direction.


Owing to the height of the butte, it served as a lookout for sentinels that were posted to warn the people of enemy attacks. And because there were plenty of conflicts between the settlers and the Native Americans, as well as internally among the latter, it’s not surprising that two Arikaree Indian sentinels — American Black Eagle and Standing Together — were slain in the area. It is for them that Sentinel Butte is named.


Sentinel Butte itself consists of two plateaus with a total area of 240 acres. Sentinel Butte Nature Preserve, however, is a nature site that consists of only four acres.

One of the reasons for the preserve is the protection of fish fossils found in rock beds of sandstone and limestone, which have been dubbed the White River Formation. Because of this, no man-made structures or facilities are constructed within the area.


The manager of the Sentinel Butte Nature Preserve, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, allows hiking, bird watching, photography, and other passive activities within the area. And, although the butte is high and has vertical slopes, it has a side that is more forgiving and thus within the capabilities of beginning mountain trekkers.

Bird watchers, as they walk the trails to the butte, can try to spot soaring prairie falcons and golden eagles. In addition, plant life also abounds in the area, providing photographers with plenty of subjects. Further, hikers will find spreading fleabane, smooth cliff-brake, and mixed grass prairie. And, of course, there are the fossils of two species of sunfish that are unique to the butte — the Phioplarchus whitei and P. sexspinosus.

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Park Details:
Park Name: Sentinel Butte Nature Preserve Showers: No
State Park: No Electrical Hookups: No
Address: ND Parks and Recreation Department

1600E. Century Ave., #3

Playground: No
City: Bismarck Acreage: 4
State: North Dakota Horses Allowed: No
Zip Code: 58503 Picknicking: No
Phone Number: (701) 328-5357 Boating: No
Toll Free Number: Canoeing: No
Reservation Number: Water Skiing: No
Email Address: parkrec@nd.gov Fishing: No
RV Sites: No Swimming: No
Pets Allowed: No Restaurant: No
Hiking: Yes Reservations Allowed: No
Biking: No Others:
Cabins & Lodging: No Tent Camping: No


No admission fee is charged for entry into the Sentinel Butte Nature Preserve

Hours and Seasons:

The nature preserve is open daily the whole year round.