Sarah Feist
Pat Geiger throttles the trolley while en route to the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park with a load of passengers in 2014. (Tom Stromme/Bismarck Tribune)

Fourth grade students from Will-Moore Elementary follow teacher Alivia Wamboldt after a tour of the Custer House in 2012. (Tom Stromme/Bismarck Tribune)

Blockhouses have been in place at Fort Abraham Lincoln since June 1872. (Tom Stromme/Bismarck Tribune)

Members of the Miller family, part of an 1875 living history group, sing during a remembrance ceremony at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in 2007. (Will Kincaid/Bismarck Tribune)

Our great state is studded with scenic state parks offering a variety of trails, camping, biking, paddling and more. Here are seven compelling reasons to get outdoors, stay fit and have fun at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park south of Mandan.

1. Outdoor fitness: No matter your favorite way to stay fit, you can find an accommodation at Fort Lincoln. There are trails, a playground, fishing, picnic areas and shelters, to name a few options. One and a half miles of paved trails and seven miles of single-track primitive and self-guided interpretive trails await, requiring low to moderate skill level. The park is open year-round for skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, walking and exploring the outdoors. Bring your boat, kayak or fishing gear to enjoy at the park's camping area. Bicycle enthusiasts will enjoy the sloping hills and trails studded with shade from the trees.

2. History: Fort Lincoln is plentiful in both military and Native American history. You can go back in time to learn about Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and view portions of the reconstructed military post and Custer House. On-a-Slant Indian Village is onsite featuring six reconstructed earth lodges showing how the Mandan Indians lived. The park holds the nation's best display of Mandan artifacts and history. There are daily tours of the Custer House and the On-A-Slant Indian village during summer with guides dressed in period costumes and uniforms.

3. The commissary: This building houses the park's gift store, book store and coffee shop. The gift store has souvenirs, clothing and North Dakota-made products you can browse while sipping a custom-made iced or hot beverage. Kids will love the selection of candy available. There is a lovely room to sit and enjoy the treats you purchased, in case anyone needs a break from the outdoors. This facility is open year-round and also available for indoor meeting and event rentals.

4. The Fort Lincoln Trolley: This popular railroad excursion meanders along the Heart River from the Mandan Depot to Fort Lincoln. On the 30-minute one-way ride in a restored 1920s trolley, you'll see the Heart and Missouri Rivers and possibly some wildlife. The trolley, which costs $7 for those over age 5, departs Mandan on the hour from 1-5 p.m. and makes the reverse journey back from the park on the half hour between 1:30-5:30 p.m. The trolley runs through Labor Day, so don't miss out.

5. Special events: Fort Lincoln has a variety of annual events like winter hikes, trails day, fireworks and more. Upcoming events include Campground Corn/Frank Fest on August 22 and the popular Haunted Fort held throughout October. In December, you can visit for Santa's Blockhouse Lighting Trek.

6. The view: Whether you are camping, hiking, fishing or enjoying nature at Fort Lincoln, you will be treated to panoramic views of the Heart and Missouri Rivers. If you want to enjoy more, try visiting the adjacent beautiful North Dakota Veterans Cemetery. For a bit of adventure, the Roughrider off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail is just south of the park, offering over 16 miles of trail along the Missouri River.

7. Seven miles: That's right. At only seven miles south of Mandan on Highway 1806, you don't have to spend precious time planning, packing, and traveling for a trip hours away. You can easily make camping reservations online. The modern campground in the wooded area has about any amenity the campers in your family may want. If you don't have a camper, look into renting a cabin or even staying in a tipi. If you just want to enjoy a day picnic with your family, shelters are available.

Like all state parks, the park's daily entrance fee is an affordable $5 per vehicle. Visit the Fort Abraham Lincoln page at or follow Fort Lincoln on Facebook for more information.

Sarah Feist is a lifelong North Dakotan who lives in Hazen. She blogs about her passion for food, travel, exercise and more at