13 Best Things To Do In Theodore Roosevelt National Park

13 Best Things To Do In Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The grand hills and sumptuous skylines of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are precisely the kind of vistas you may think would please legendary president, soldier, statesman, and conservationist Teddy Roosevelt.

Located in North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park affords its guests a wealth of out of doors actions, packages, and unforgettable views. The park was established in 1978 in North Dakota as a result of it was a favourite place of Roosevelt and the place he spent a lot of his time when not engaged in politics in Washington D.C. or preventing the Spanish in Cuba.

The park boasts an attention-grabbing mixture of prairie lands and rocky hills and is the assembly level between the Great Plains of the central United States and the Badlands of the Dakotas.

With a automobile and a few strolling sneakers, you’ll be able to take pleasure in the whole lot this Western North Dakota park has to supply in only a few days or spend extra time exploring, adventuring, or getting cozy by the campfire at one of many park’s campsites.

Want to know the place to begin and the place to finish up throughout your tour of this magnificent wilderness? Let’s discover a number of the greatest issues to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.


  • Most vital landmark – The Theodore Roosevelt Maltese Cross Cabin
  • Best free exercise – Painted Canyon Nature Trail
  • Best exercise for youths – North Unit Scenic Drive
  • Best exercise for adults – Mountain Biking the South Unit Scenic Drive
  • Best meals – Theodore’s Dining Room
  • Best nightlife – Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival
  • Best all-around lodgingAmericInn by Wyndham Medora

Best Things to Do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

1. Visit the Theodore Roosevelt Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin

Theodore Roosevelt Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin in North Dakota

Randy Runtsch / Adobe

Address: Medora, ND 58645

Teddy Roosevelt as soon as stated, “I might not have been president had it not been for my expertise in North Dakota.” He started his love affair with the state within the Eighties when he traveled there to hunt bison. After falling in love with the area, he bought a property within the space and finally stayed in what was often called the Maltese Cross Cabin.

Incredibly, the cabin was as soon as disassembled and dropped at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. The cabin was additionally dropped at Portland, Oregon, at one level when that metropolis hosted the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Eventually, the cabin would make its means again to the park after it was established in 1978.

The Maltese Cross Cabin is simple to entry from the South Unit of the park and is positioned proper behind the South Unit Visitor Center as you enter the park from East River Road. If you’re significantly pressed for time however nonetheless need to see a tremendous historic artifact, seeing the cabin is a should, even if you happen to’re not staying within the space for longer than a day.

If you’re staying in a single day, you’ll be able to take advantage of your expertise by staying in one of many cool native ranch properties.

See Related: Famous Historic Landmarks in North Dakota

2. Mountain Bike the South Unit Scenic Loop Drive

North Dakota, Medora, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Unit, Painted Canyon Overlook
Bernard Friel – Danita Delimont / Adobe Stock

Address: South Unit Visitor’s Center, Medora, ND, 58645

The South Unit Scenic Drive is definitely doable by car, however if you happen to occur to have entry to a mountain bike or a hybrid bike, you would possibly take into account driving the South Unit’s wonderful scenic loop drive. The South Unit is essentially the most simply accessible a part of the park because it’s proper close to Interstate 94, and you can begin the journey (or drive if you happen to select your automobile) out of your resort room, ranch cabin, or campground in Medora.

The park permits bicycles on all park roads, however you’ll be able to’t take them on trails or into the wilderness. It’s additionally a good suggestion to stay conscious of your environment as you journey as a result of herds of bison and horses typically come near and stroll on the highway. There are some blind turns and pretty steep sections, and also you’ll need to maintain a watch out for wandering herds which may cross the highway proper in entrance of you.

The South Unit’s scenic loop drive is 36 miles, so it’s undoubtedly a problem on a bicycle however is definitely a one-of-a-kind expertise. The loop formally begins on the South Unit Visitor’s Center, which is lower than a mile from the middle of Medora. You might park on the customer’s heart and unload your bikes within the park or add just a few miles onto your journey from an area resort just like the AmericInn by Wyndham Medora.

See Related: Most Scenic Bike Trails in America

3. Explore the Elkhorn Ranch Unit

Elkhorn Ranch Unit Theodore Roosevelt
Nicki / Adobe Stock

Address: Medora, ND 58645

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is positioned between the South Unit and North Unit and is likely one of the much less visited areas of the park. The space is known as for the ranch constructed by President Theodore Roosevelt after the dying of his spouse and mom within the mid-Eighties. Roosevelt was so distraught that he determined to depart the East Coast and dedicate the remainder of his life to ranching within the Dakota Territory (North Dakota wasn’t but a state).

The authentic ranch home not exists, however the former ranch stays an necessary a part of Roosevelt’s historical past. The web site options an interactive exhibit and plenty of alternatives for images, in addition to wildlife photography experiences.

In his e-book “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” Roosevelt describes his ranch home as having a “low, lengthy veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods.” Although the ranch home not exists, Roosevelt’s writing definitely brings the place to life in a single’s thoughts.

Reaching the ranch does require some journey, and it takes a while spent on a gravel highway to achieve the previous web site of the cabin. The drive is about 90 minutes a method, so it’s a good suggestion to have a snug automobile able to touring over an imperfect gravel highway.

See Related: Best Things to Do in North Dakota & Places to Visit

4. See the Painted Canyon Nature Trail & Visitor Center

Painted Canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Meandering Moments / Adobe Stock

Address: Painted Canyon Visitor Center Exit 32, Belfield, ND 58622

Entering Theodore Roosevelt National Park requires paying the park entrance price, so nearly the entire actions contained in the park (and nearly the whole lot on this checklist) do require an preliminary price to expertise. If you’re brief on time otherwise you’re on a very small funds, you will get a glimpse of the park and all its magnificence from the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, which is free and simply north of Interstate 94 by way of Exit 32.

The customer heart itself isn’t technically contained in the park, and you may even entry the Painted Canyon Trail from the parking zone of the customer heart. The path is a couple of mile lengthy and gives views of the mountains. If you need the simplest model of the path, journey alongside the loop in a counterclockwise route, as this will provide you with a better ascent and gradual decline for the second half.

One of the good facets of the customer heart is which you could really park in a single day within the parking zone together with your RV, which may be very handy if you happen to discover that the campgrounds contained in the park are full otherwise you don’t have a lot time for visiting the park. There are giant parking spots able to dealing with an RV or bus, in addition to a great deal of parking spots for passenger automobiles and vans.

See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit

5. Peek into the Past within the Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest Theodore Roosevelt
wilderndpix / Adobe Stock

Address: South Petrified Forest Trail, North Billings, ND 58645

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is house to a dramatic petrified forest with one of many highest concentrations of petrified wooden within the nation. At one time within the distant previous, Theodore Roosevelt National Park was full of large bushes, and the panorama seemed extremely completely different than it does right now. The space was really house to infinite swamps and bushes.

From the parking space, attending to the petrified forest requires strolling a couple of mile and a half, so it’s an exercise that may supply just a few hours of motion and marvel for a household. If you’re touring as a pair or have an journey in your thoughts, you’ll be able to improve your journey by way of the petrified forest with an extra 9 miles of mountaineering.

The path to the petrified forest is taken into account simple to reasonable in issue. Completing the entire 10.5-mile loop notches the issue stage as much as reasonable. You would possibly encounter some pretty stiff winds in some seasons, however the views of the prolonged path are beautiful and price your time.

See Related: List of US National Monuments (Including the Best to Visit)

6. Drive the North Unit Scenic Drive

North Unit in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
sschremp / Adobe Stock

Address: 208 Scenic Drive, Watford City, ND 58854

If you’re on the park for greater than in the future, take into consideration driving the North Unit scenic drive a kind of days. The drive is a 28-mile out-and-back drive and gives glorious views from the consolation of your air-conditioned or heated automobile. Some vacationers assume the vistas of the North Unit drive are higher than the South Unit.

Why not strive each and determine for your self? After all, the surroundings is certainly what brings many vacationers to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, however the scenic drives within the north and south are additionally a straightforward solution to attain varied overlooks, mountaineering alternatives, and installations.

The North Unit is a less-traveled space of the park, however the 50-mile drive north from Interstate 94 is definitely worth the time. If you’re fascinated about viewing wildlife, the North Unit drive ought to enchantment to you, particularly with all of the scenic vistas round that provide a super backdrop to herds of bison, bison calves, bighorn sheep, and the occasional moose.

See Related: Best National Parks in the Midwest (+ NPS Sites)

7. Hike the Buckhorn Trail

The Buckhorn Trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park passes through the badlands of North Dakota.
Kelly vanDellen / Shutterstock

Address: Buckhorn Trail Central McKenzie, ND 58634

If problem and exploration convey you to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Buckhorn Trail is a perfect place to take pleasure in a difficult trek into the wilderness. The path is sort of 11 miles lengthy, and you may stroll, run, stroll, or hike along the trail for miles with wonderful views of the encircling hills and valleys.

One of the favored actions on the park is birding, and this path is normally a superb place for a stroll together with your binoculars. You’ll additionally discover some sometimes rowdy herds of bison and snakes alongside the path. Sometimes, the vegetation alongside the path can get slightly thick, so you might need to put on pants if the climate permits for them.

You don’t have to hike the whole path to get some enjoyment out of it. Traveling only a few miles is lengthy sufficient to offer you some expansive views and a good exercise.

If you hit the path in the course of the yr, carry as a lot water as doable. North Dakota will get fairly sizzling and dry in the summertime, and also you’ll want the additional hydration.

8. Discover the Cannonball Concretions

Cannonball Concretions Theodore Roosevelt
jkraft5 / Adobe Stock

Address: Cannonball Concretion Pullout, Grassy Butte, ND 58634

During your exploration of the north aspect of the park, take a second to have a look at the cannonball concretions, that are unusual spherical rocks that appear wholly misplaced within the uneven and rocky panorama. Round concretions are shaped like a pearl and not using a shell, with many layers of rock adhering to the sphere over time.

It’s simple to achieve this show of unusual rocks from the pullout throughout the highway from Juniper Campground, and also you’ll discover loads of parking on the web site. The trailhead for the Buckhorn Trail is close by, so undoubtedly take just a few moments to have a look at the Cannonball Concretions earlier than heading out in your hike.

Reaching the viewing spot for the concretions is simple and takes simply 5 minutes of strolling. You’ll discover an interpretive exhibit on the viewing space, and it’s undoubtedly one thing you’ll need to go to if you happen to’re traveling with kids and need to present them one thing odd, distinctive, and enjoyable.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Fargo, North Dakota

9. Trek to the Missouri River from the Wind Canyon Trail

Sunset over the Little Missouri River and Wind Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Paul / Adobe Stock

Address: Medora, ND 58645

As you’ve in all probability surmised from this checklist of the highest issues to do in Teddy Roosevelt National Park, mountaineering trails are one of many fundamental actions out there to guests. However, probably the most dramatic views out there to guests requires only a few minutes spent strolling on an unpaved path. The Wind Canyon Trail can take as few as 5 or as many as half-hour, relying in your fee of journey.

The path is a loop and takes you to a formidable lookout level the place you’ll see the Little Missouri River meandering by way of the cliffs and hills of the South Unit of the park. You might need to time your go to to this temporary half-mile path for the sundown when the view is just spectacular with the solar setting within the distance.

Alternatively, strive an early morning go to if you happen to’re a photographer and need the solar behind you in your shot. Even although the path is brief, there’s a place to sit down alongside the path, so you’ll be able to take a relaxation if you happen to’re not feeling as much as the problem of mountaineering towards the river. As all the time, put on some comfy sneakers and go away the excessive heels at house!

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Medora, North Dakota

10. Stargaze During the Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival

Address: Peaceful Valley Ranch, Medora, North Dakota 58645

Much of the world’s inhabitants lives in giant, vivid cities, which obscure the attractive view of the celebrities at evening. Due to its distant location, the celebrities seen at evening within the Dakotas and at Theodore Roosevelt National Park are expansive and far brighter than most individuals would usually expertise of their day-to-day metropolis lives.

The Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival is a superb solution to take advantage of your nights on the park. The pageant happens every year, normally in September, and options a number of occasions over a span of three days. Each evening of the pageant, you’ll be able to be part of beginner astronomers and a bunch of park rangers, wanting by way of a sequence of telescopes pointed up on the sky at varied heavenly our bodies.

The pageant additionally normally options keynote audio system who supply talks after darkish from the Cottonwood Campground Amphitheater, which is on the south aspect of the park. If you’ve by no means had the chance to see the sky from a rural space, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an incredible place to enjoy stargazing. Even if you happen to’re not within the park through the pageant, don’t neglect to search for on the stars throughout your go to.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Grand Forks, North Dakota

11. Camp at Cottonwood Campground or Juniper Campground

Cottonwood Campground, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Sceninc Media / Adobe Stock

Address: Cottonwood Campground 315 2nd Ave, Medora, ND 58645

Address: Juniper Campground Scenic Dr, Grassy Butte, ND 58634

The park gives its guests two campgrounds, each offering an extremely rustic and rural expertise. Cottonwood Campground is positioned within the South Unit, and Juniper Campground is positioned within the North Unit, so that you would possibly discover it useful to decide on the campground closest to the opposite actions you need to take pleasure in whereas exploring the park.

Neither campground gives mobile phone reception or web connectivity, so that you would possibly discover tenting within the park the most effective alternatives anyplace to unplug from social media and all the trimmings of contemporary life and luxuriate in some quiet time with the household, your vital different, or in your solo journey of self-discovery.

In addition to a scarcity of a camp retailer, mobile phone reception, and web entry, neither campground has RV hookups both, though a lot of the spots will accommodate an RV. Juniper Campground within the North Unit typically fills up by noon, so it’s necessary to snag a spot early. Meanwhile, a number of the websites at Cottonwood Campground within the south are reservable online with the National Park Service.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Minot, North Dakota

12. Wander Along the Little Mo Nature Trail

Little Mo Nature Trail theodore roosevelt
Sceninc Media / Adobe

Address: Little Mo Nature Trail, Grassy Butte, ND 58634

Like the Wind Canyon Trail, the Little Mo Nature Trail is a superb path for fast journeys into only a trace of wilderness. At a size of 1.1 miles, the path shouldn’t take greater than about half an hour to finish at a leisurely tempo. If you’re staying on the Juniper Campground, you’ll discover this path is handy for a quick outing, and it’s additionally a fantastic path that can get you near the Little Missouri River.

Sometimes, you’ll see bison swim throughout the river if you happen to catch the path on the proper time. Even although the path is temporary, there are just a few spots with expansive views. Much of the path is wheelchair-friendly and simply completed by youngsters who may not have the stamina to finish one of many longer mountaineering trails within the park.

Bear in thoughts, additionally, that moist climate could make some elements of the path muddy, so it’s all the time a good suggestion to come back ready with good sneakers. Pick up a pamphlet in the beginning of the path explaining all of the sights you’ll see alongside the way in which.

A pamphlet can be useful when the path will get slightly overgrown as a result of it’s simple to by chance veer onto a bison path that crosses the precise path and end up face-to-face with a herd.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Dickinson, North Dakota

13. Take within the Views from Buck Hill

Late Spring in the North Dakota Badlands Looking Southeast Toward Painted Canyon in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park From the Top of Buck
Hill Scott / Adobe

Address: Buck Hill Trail, North Billings, ND 58622

Take your digital camera with you if you ascend Buck Hill, one of many highest accessible locations within the park. One of essentially the most attention-grabbing sides of this fast half-mile path is that the very prime of the lookout was as soon as underwater. If you study the rocks close to the highest of the hill, you would possibly discover striations which can be proof of the realm as soon as having been coated by an unlimited quantity of water.

On a transparent day, you’ll see a tremendous 360-degree view the place you’ll be able to see park options just like the Painted Canyon and the Boicourt path. A glance to the west will present you a view of the North Dakota Badlands, and a glance towards the east will showcase rolling grasslands and the occasional prairie canine city. The south aspect is filled with lovely forests.

If you’re staying within the park in a single day, Buck Hill is a superb place for stargazing, significantly on a transparent evening. If you climb the hill at evening, make sure that to convey a flashlight as a result of ascending to the highest means climbing a reasonably steep staircase, and also you don’t need to journey.

If you’re involved about your surefootedness, climb the hill earlier than sundown, take pleasure in an attractive twilight because the solar disappears under the horizon, and await the celebrities to look.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Bismarck, North Dakota


Are there bears in Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

One of the attention-grabbing sides of the wildlife of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the absence of so-called “apex” predators. You received’t see wolves and bears roaming the hills of the park, however the occasional mountain lion visits the park. Large animals within the park embody horses, bison, deer, and pronghorn.

What is the closest city to Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

You’ll in all probability drive by way of Medora, North Dakota, if you enter Theodore Roosevelt National Park from the South Unit of the park, because it’s the closest city to the park. The North Unit of the park is about 14 miles south of one other city, Watford City, North Dakota.

Most vacationers will attain the park by way of Interstate 94, which travels proper previous the south entrance to the park.

How a lot time is required at Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

Realistically, you’ll be able to cowl all the principle sights and vistas of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in about two days, however a 3rd day might swimsuit you if you happen to’re tenting within the park. The park has three models or areas, and also you would possibly take into account devoting in the future to every unit (North Unit, South Unit, Elkhorn Ranch Unit).

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