Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Visit the North Dakota countryside that had such a major influence on famous past president. Roosevelt National Park offers hiking, wildlife, history and the charm of nearby Medora.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park was a very worthwhile stop for us. We spent three nights in the South Unit of the park. We did not have time to see the North Unit, which is about 50 miles further north on route 85. The Little Missouri National Grasslands runs between the two units.

Roosevelt National Park

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Here are some highlights for visiting the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park:

  • Make a stop at the Painted Canyon Overlook for some magnificent views. It is located off route 94 to the east of Medora. The Visitor Center is open in summer.
  • The main entrance to the South Unit is in the charming town of Medora. You should plan on spending some time in Medora while you are here.
  • The Medora Visitor Center at the main entrance offers an orientation film, some exhibits and a guided tour of Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin.
  • We camped in the park itself. The Cottonwood Campground is about 5 miles from the main Medora entrance. It was $10/night, no hook-ups. We had a campsite with enough room for our 40 foot motorhome and Silverado pick-up, and it had a picnic table and grill. In this half of the campground, we saw a mix of similar motorhomes, fifth wheels, and trailers. There was also a section suited for tent camping. The campground had restrooms, drinking water (but not to fill your tank). There were no showers or RV dump station.
  • The Medora Campground and Red Trail Campground are nearby in Medora.    
  • We enjoyed the experience of staying in the park itself. We chatted with the campground host couple and took part in the ranger-led hikes and campfire presentations. Even if you stay outside of the park, we recommend taking advantage of these interesting park programs. We always learn something and enjoy talking with other campers and RVers. If you stay at the campground, take a walk over to the river bed of the Little Missouri River. It is just a pleasant place to look around at the hills and cottonwood trees, and you might spot some wildlife. And if it is a clear night, look up and enjoy the stars.
  • There is a 36-mile scenic loop drive through the South Unit. Along the way, you will find interpretive signs, overlooks, hiking trailheads and wildlife. There are wild horses in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in addition to the bison, elk, mule deer and prairie dog towns.  
  • We also hiked the trail to the Petrified Forest, which is accessed from the western boundary of the South Unit. Stop by the Medora Visitor Center to get a map to the trailhead. It is about a mile and a half hike into where the formations are found. Don’t just stop at the first sign of Petrified Forest formations you encounter. Go a bit further and you will find some more. And we were happy we went about a half mile beyond that, for some excellent ridge top views of the surrounding badlands country.  
  • Peaceful Valley Ranch is a concessionaire within the park that offers horse trail rides. We spent $25/person on an hour and a half guided ride. It was well worth it for beginners like us. Great views and interesting info shared along the way by the guides. They also offer longer rides for experienced riders. 

Although we didn’t get to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park due to time constraints, it sounds like a good stop. One of the rangers told us the terrain is more dramatic than the South Unit. The North Unit has a 14-mile scenic driving loop as well as hiking trails, a Visitor Center and Juniper Campground.

While you are visiting Roosevelt National Park, don’t miss Medora.

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