It was a trail through rugged North Dakota country carrying settlers, wagons and buggies to their destinations further west. General Custer used the route on his way to the famous Battle of Little Bighorn. The road was not paved, and no railroads had come through. The path was just looming, rocky outcrops along a dusty trail. In some parts of the landscape, geology delivered a surreal panorama. Railroad towns began appearing along the 108 miles between Mandan and Dickinson in 1864 when the Northern Pacific Railway started building an empire across the northern tier of the Great Plains, under the requirement that they provide rail service every 10-15 miles along a route. They required towns along the railroad to provide water for trains and housing for workers, which ultimately created communities along the lines.
Then in 1913, America decided it was ready and the Old Red Trail and other cross-country trails got a second look as the foundation of a new road system from coast to coast. It was finally acknowledged that cars were going to be a permanent fixture in the country. Highways, like Route 30, now the famous Lincoln Highway, Route 40, ultimately a part of Route 66, and Route 50 that stretches some 3,000 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, were planned. When Route 10 across the northern tier of the United States from New York City to Seattle, Washington was planned, it incorporated the Old Red Trail in North Dakota from Fargo to Medora. Despite harsh mud-covered roads and few markers, by the 1920s people were driving their cars on the route with a newfound sense of freedom.
Once the Interstates were built, many of the old roads were left behind. It took the Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway to preserve the heritage on Route 10 and the Old Red Trail. Traveling through the rolling countryside, Old Red Old Ten bobs and weaves under the new road, which purposefully skirted towns along the way, on a path right through the quaint towns and pastoral landscapes. The scenery springs to life in historic districts and small villages, while elsewhere, the route is punctuated with twisted rock formations. To take you back to the era when Old Ten was built, we’ve identified places that were there when early drivers traveled the route. Slow down and enjoy it all; the scenery, amenities, museums, historic structures, lodging, eateries, arts and outdoor recreation, as you venture through the rustic panorama.