I’m notorious for getting caught up in the latest, greatest gear. When it comes to hobbies, sports, and outdoor adventures, it’s easy to focus...
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is known for amazing wildlife like bison and elk, 95 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, water sports, and for inspiring a love of nature in the nation’s 26th president. President Roosevelt lived and ranched in the area in the 1880s.
Maltese Cross Cabin in Theodore Roosevelt National Park Photo: Adobe Stock
It’s also known for its wild horses that were introduced to North America by the Spanish in the 1500s and to the Medora, N.D. area, where the park is located, in the mid-1800s.
Wild Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park Photo: Dollar
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is comprised of three areas: South Unit, North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Unit.
The South Unit entrance is in Medora North Dakota 27 miles east of the Montana state line. The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is located 7 miles east of Medora on I-94 at Exit 32. Bison are found in this South Unit as well as the North Unit. Be sure to keep a minimum of 25 yards between you and bison or any other mammals in the park. What’s unique about the South Unit is its the only place in the park where you’ll see wild horses. For the best opportunity to see them, go on the Scenic Loop Drive or look for them from I-94.
For a short walk to see excellent sunset views, walk the .2-miles to Boicourt Overlook. You’ll see the badlands transform to beautiful colors as the sun begins to set. For a longer 14.2-mile roundtrip hike, go to the Maah Daah Hey Trail. The entire trail is 96 miles long and connects all three units of the park.
A float trip down the Little Missouri River is an ideal way to experience the beauty and solitude of the North Dakota badlands. It takes about 5 days to canoe the 107.5 miles from the bridge at Medora to the Hwy 85 bridge near the North Unit. Or do a short 3-mile trip from Sully Creek State Park to the Medora bridge. (The river water levels are variable. Please contact the park at 701-623-4730 ext 3417 for up-to-date information before launching on the river.)
The Little Missouri River Valley in Theodore Roosevelt National Park Photo: Dollar
North Dakota Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park Photo: Dollar
The North Unit entrance is along U.S. Highway 85, approximately 14 miles south of Watford City, ND and 50 miles north of Belfield, ND. The distance by road from Medora to the North Unit is approximately 70 miles. I-94 travelers can access U.S. Highway 85 at Exit 42 in Belfield, ND. You can spot bison here in the North Unit, so keep your eyes open.
Springtime in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park Photo: NPS/Kathy Turner
Elkhorn Ranch Unit
The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located 35 miles north of Medora. Access to the site is via gravel roads. Approaching the site from the east requires fording the Little Missouri River. Ask a ranger at one of the park visitor centers for information on traveling to the Elkhorn Ranch Site before you attempt the journey.
The grand view of Elkhorn Ranch Unit Photo: NPS/Laura Thomas
For More Information:
National Park Service
Gateway City: Medora, North Dakota