Theodore Roosevelt National Park encompasses the badlands of western North Dakota. This park honors Theodore Roosevelt and his presidency, which was marked by a legacy of conservation in our public lands. The park has two main units, North and South. The South Unit is the most visited and easily accessible, located near the town of Medora. The park’s North Unit is 70 miles north. Each unit observes a different time zone: the South Unit observes Mountain Standard Time (MST) and the North Unit observes Central Standard Time (CST), which can get confusing when you fly into CST, travel to MST, and need to fly out of CST the next day.
Our short trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park was unfortunately made even shorter due to a flight delay. We eventually arrived on a Saturday afternoon, flying into Bismarck. The original plan was to visit the south unit one day, and the north unit the next, however after our delayed flight and 2-hour drive to Medora, we weren’t left with much daylight to explore one side of the park our first day. instead, we found ourselves exploring the cute, western town of Medora. Arguably our favorite part of this trip was the wine bar we stumbled upon, Uncorked Medora. Here we tried some delicious, local to North Dakota wines and flatbread pizza.
We stayed the night in the town of Dickinson, about 20 miles from Medora. Dickinson has more hotels and services compared to Medora, which mainly has camping options. The next morning, we started the day early, drove back to Medora and into the park. The South Unit is mainly known for its short and accessible hiking trails. It also has a nice, paved 36-mile scenic drive that loops multiple overlooks throughout the park. We also encountered more wildlife than what I expected. The bison were plentiful, many literally crossing right in front of our car, and we also saw wild horses and the infamous prairie dogs.
Popular South Unit Hikes:
- Ridgeline Trail (0.6 mi RT): colorful badlands, grasslands, and bison
- Coal Vein Trail (0.8 mi RT): geology of the badlands, grab an interpretive brochure at the trailhead!
- Wind Canyon Trail (0.4 mi RT): wind sculpted canyon with views of the Little Missouri River (fav trail)
Eventually, explored what the South Unit had to offer, and with not enough time left to make it to the North Unit and back before our flight, we found ourselves back at the wine bar. We sampled some more wines, and fueled up on food before traveling back to Bismarck to catch our flight home. This trip was one of our shorter ones, but no less sweet!