There can be no greater issue than the conservation in this country.Theodore Roosevelt
About the Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, who hunted and ranched here as a young man. It preserves areas of rugged and beautiful badlands in southwestern North Dakota. Today, you can enjoy scenic drives and hiking trails and catch glimpses of bison, deer, and prairie dogs. The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is a spectacular project under construction at the park, with expected completion in 2025.
Check out the view from the park!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- Drive the 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive in the South Unit for trailheads and viewpoints
- The Skyline Vista Overlook has the best overall views
- Hike the Painted Canyon Trail to see herds of bison
- Take the 14-mile Scenic Drive (28 miles out and back) This was our favorite part of the park
- Just outside the park, visit Medora, ND and eat at the Pitchfork Fondue
We enjoyed our time in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands and were excited that North Dakota completed our goal of seeing all 50 states. We even got to join the” Save the Best until Last Club” by making North Dakota the last state to visit to complete all 50 in the United States!
Size of Park
Theodore Roosevelt established 5 National Parks during his 1901-1909 presidential term.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park consists of three geographically separate areas. Located in North Dakota, the park is known for its scenic drives, wildlife viewing areas, and unique geological features.
It is not just the extraordinary landscape that makes the park stand out. Still, the park also preserves the memory of Theodore Roosevelt, who did more for the National Park system than any other president.
The park has three sections; the South Unit, the North Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit is generally considered the favorite section of the park. You can relax under the sun or spend a night here under the park’s night sky, illuminated by millions of stars. The park is also famous for birding, hiking, and biking.
Best hiking trails
Wind Canyon Trail
Many say that if you have time to hike only one trail in the park, it should be the Wind Canyon Trail! Even though the loop is only half a mile long, you will be captivated by the views of the wind-eroded canyon.
The trail is flat but still rugged. It is also quite suitable for everyone.
Coal Vein Trail
If you are looking for a hike that is more interesting than challenging, then try out the Coal Vein Trail. It is a 0.6-mile-long trail that takes you to a 12 feet thick coal vein. The coal vein was burned in an underground fire in the late 1900s, which altered the entire terrain. Hikers can spot rock formations and rock layers, which can be a fantastic learning experience.
Ekblom Trail and Big Plateau Loop
This route is slightly different from the rest of the trails in the national park as it passes through grasslands and takes you a bit closer to the Little Missouri River. This trail is 5.2 miles long and provides one of the best wildlife experiences, where you can easily spot feral horses, deer, and coyotes wandering.
Buck Hill Trail
This trail is usually compared with Wind Canyon Trails because of its easy accessibility. Getting to the trailhead is not a problem, as you can detach from the scenic drive. After that, you can get to Buck Hill by hiking a 0.2-mile-long steep track.
Buck Hill is also the highest point in the park, so that you will have a 360-degree view of the terrain, including the badlands and vegetation.
The Achenbach Trail
This trail is for adventure seekers as it is 18 miles long, and backpackers usually take 11 to 12 hours to complete it. As the route is quite long, it highlights various features of the park, including its wildlife and the views of the Little Missouri River. If you want a shorter hike, you can hike half the trail. Many people hike to Sperati Point and return to the trailhead.
Camping in the Park
There are two campgrounds in the park; Cottonwood Campground and Juniper Campground. Both of these campgrounds have various standard sites and one group site. The sites are very basic, so there are no showers or hookups here. In addition, there is also one group site for camping with horses (Roundup Group Horse Camp).
This is the only campground in the South Unit and has 37 campsites. Half of the sites can be booked through reservations, while the other half are first-come, first-serve. Moreover, seasonal potable water is available here.
As the campground is located in the middle of cottonwood trees, the sights are magnificent during fall when the trees turn golden yellow.
Located near the entrance of the North Unit, Juniper Campground has one group site and nine tent-only sites. The group site can be booked by reservation only. All the sites accommodate tent camping, while RVs and vehicles can use most. A seasonal dump station and potable water are also available at the campground.
Camping options near the park
There are quite a few campgrounds near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. These campsites also have more amenities than those available inside the park.
Buffalo Gap Campground
This quiet little campground is located in Medora and is 8 miles away from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There are 37 well-maintained sites on the campground where tent camping is allowed, and campers have access to showers and restrooms. While there is no Wi-Fi available, pets are welcome on the campground.
Twin Butte Campground
This campground is located 70 miles from the national park, so it may take an hour to travel there. However, it is a family-run campground with 16 sites that include electric hookups, showers, and well water. The campsites here also have shade due to the tall pine trees.
Red Trail Campground
Red Trail Campground is located in Medora and is the closest campground to the park. The 113 campsites here have Wi-Fi, electric hookups, showers, and restrooms.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is where you will find America’s third-highest concentration of petrified wood. Petrified wood is formed when the wood turns into stone due to volcanic eruptions.
The wood in Petrified Forest provides an insight into this region’s geological history, where massive trees instead of prairies once dominated the area. Walking in the middle of this forest is both haunting and fascinating; therefore, it should be part of your itinerary!
Cannonball Concretions Pullout
There are not many places in the world where this peculiar geological oddity is easily accessible; however, you can find a collection of these boulders in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit.
Cannonballs are large round stones sticking out from the landscape in a distinctive manner. These cannonball-shaped rocks are called concretions and form when minerals glue sediments from an ancient river. These rocks provide a testament to this land’s long history and make for a fascinating sight!
At the end of the North Unit Scenic Drive, you will find the Oxbow Overlook, which offers some of the most dramatic views in Roosevelt National Park. You can see colorful canyons that stretch as far as the eye can see. The landscape is decorated with tall cottonwood trees, and you can also spot the Little Missouri River in the distance.
Painted Canyon Overlook
This valley in Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named Painted Canyon because of its colorful rocks. The overlook is located outside the South Unit and showcases some awesome views of the valley. If you don’t have much time, you can quickly visit the overlook to get a brief look at the national park. These Badlands look pretty beautiful at sunrise/
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