Introducing Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Undoubtedly North Dakota’s highlight, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (701-623-4466; www.nps.gov/thro; 7-day pass person/carload $5/10) near the state’s western border protects colorful badlands with its bizarre rock formations and healthy prairie. Most visitors take a spin on the 36-mile scenic drive in the South Unit, near I-94 at Medora. The more rugged North Unit, 68 miles north on US 85, offers a 14-mile drive and fewer visitors. An extensive area around the units is protected as the Little Missouri National Grassland.
The park has three visitor centers, including the Medora visitor center (701-623-4466; 8am-6pm Mon-Thu, 8am-8pm Fri-Sun summer, 8am-4:30pm rest of year), with Theodore Roosevelt’s old cabin out back. Roosevelt described this area as ‘a land of vast, silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horsemen, ’ and it’s hard to describe the place better even today.
Wildlife is still everywhere: mule deer, wild horses, bighorn sheep, elk, bison, around 200 species of bird and, of course, sprawling subterranean prairie dog towns.
Hikers can explore 85 miles of backcountry trails. For a good adventure, hike or cycle the 96-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail between the park units.
Accommodations in Medora (all of it overpriced during the summer) include the massive Badlands Motel (701-623-4444, 800-633-6721; 501 Pacific Ave; s $75-115, d $85-125, Apr-Oct; wi-fi), which has a variety of simple rooms. The park itself has two simple campgrounds ($10 per site) and free backcountry camping (permit required).
Medora’s main claim to fame is the Pitchfork Fondue (800-633-6721; mains $12-22.50; 6:30pm summer), a touristy but fun steak diner.
Last updated: Jul 22, 2009
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