A loop through history and scenery: Sheynne Valley Scenic Byway

Ride the valley along the Sheyenne River

Start at Valley City

The grass is not always greener on the other side.  Eastern North Dakotans think they have to ride to the western part of the state for a good ride. That’s not true. The Sheyenne Valley Scenic Byway and loop is an under-rated ride.

Valley City’s Rainbow Arch Bridge

Catch this scenic ride at Valley City. From the Interstate, head in to town from the east at Exit 292 across the architectural wonder of the Rainbow Arch Bridge.  Stop at the park to read about the bridge that spawned Valley City and in turn the bridge that was rebuilt by the city.

Valley City is often called the City of Bridges, more than a dozen in the community connect the two sides of the Sheyenne River.  The 2012 Kickstands Up Motorcycle Touring Map shows options for looping back to your starting point, but for most riders, it begins and ends in Valley City.

North Dakota’s only suspension bridge was built 100 years ago to carry vehicles to what was the Teacher’s College. Now it’s a foot bridge

On the east end of town, head north on 5thAvenue, under the High Line Bridge. It’s one of the highest and longest single track bridges in the nation.

Highline Bridge, carrying rail traffic across the Sheyenne Valley

Looking north, the highway coming down the hill is the return route from Cooperstown. Kickstands Up recommends turning left at the grain elevator, looping around to come back to this point in about 2 hours.

 

 

 

 

Head North

Follow the signs to the fish hatchery. That means just north of town, you’ll head west at the grain elevator.

Go north along the western side of Lake Ashtabula.  There are parks and resorts for you to camp or stay overnight.  Once you pop up on the prairie, you’ll ride past one of the largest wind farms in the region where hundreds of turbines capture North Dakota wind to crank out power for Minnesota and points east.

Top off your loop at Cooperstown and Finley.  There you will find good gas at the Town and Country Coop. Coffee shops as well as curio, collectibles and even a gazebo  give you a chance to rest a spell in Cooperstown.

Cooperstown gazebo offers rest and shade

Most people ride north just a couple miles to the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Silo. The deactivated site is ground zero in the cold war standoff with the USSR.  Tours are available to see where airmen stood ready to launch missiles if needed.

Return to Valley City via Highway 3 or Highway 32. It’s a straight shot, a good highway with smooth riding.  You’ll enjoy the prairie landscape, smooth roads, bends, curves and turns that follow section line roads and skirt the wetlands. Traffic is light.  Depending on the time of year, there will be some farm traffic on the road.  Keep in mind, they’re not going much more than 20 miles an hour, so you’ll come up on them quickly. You and your riding companions will enjoy the quick 30 mile jaunt to Valley City.

Pull over to learn. History, architecture, archeology, culture abounds in the Sheyenne River Valley

Head South

If you choose to head south of Valley City at the well-marked Scenic Byway, you’ll see one of the nation’s top scenic routes.  History abounds. You’ll get plenty of chances to pull over and read about architecture, geology, culture and historic ethnic groups.  You probably won’t stop at all of them, but pick a few. Then next time, pick a few that you missed on your previous trip.Every hill you top opens up a vista of valleys and farms that are worthy of post card pictures.

Hidden in a valley is Kathryn, a cute little town on the rebound. There you can pull over to wet your whistle and visit with other bikers who make Kathryn their riding destination.  If you are an old school rider and don’t mind a hard-packed gravel road, you’ll ride something out of the 60’s if you follow the scenic route that leaves the east end of Main Street. If you are riding a dual-sport bike that can handle back roads, you are envied. The gravel road from Kathryn to Fort Ransom is one that most North Dakotans have never seen. It’s gorgeous. Most riders stick to blacktop. That means, go back out where you came in and turn south.

Farther on down the line is Fort Ransom a town that welcomes bikers with amazingly good food and cold drinks at unbelievably low prices — if you get there on the right day.   The winding switchbacks that take you down in to the valley is heavily treed, so take your time, visibility is limited.

Down in to Fort Ransom. The town guards the entrance to Fort Ransom state Park and historic fort.

Thor’s at Fort Ransom welcomes riders.

Once in town, head to what was the business district. Thor’s is where you’ll find some of the most hospitable people anywhere.  It’s like they’re trained to welcome you, engage you in conversation and make you feel welcome.  Across the street is a general store, and around the corner is a park where you can nap, or head north in to Fort Ransom State Park.

Climb back out of the valley at Fort Ransom and

head east to Lisbon, or west to Oakes. Either way, you can loop back to I-94 and head to Valley City for the night, or back home. It’s a full day ride and without a doubt ranks as one of the top three or four rides in North Dakota.

Head back east or west to finish the loop to Jamestown, Fargo or Valley City.

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Look for Kickstands Up maps for scenic routes including Sheyenne Valley Scenic Byway, motorcycle friendly businesses, coupons and offers.

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