Future president Theodore Roosevelt retreated from New York to this remote spot in his early 20s after losing both his wife and mother in a matter of hours. It's said that his time in the Dakota badlands inspired him to become an avid conservationist, and he set aside 230 million acres of federal land while in office, a quantity of land larger than Texas! Explore his legacy at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the most underappreciated stars of the park system.
Wildlife abounds in these surreal mounds of striated earth, from mule deer to wild horses, bison, bighorn sheep and elk. There are also around 200 bird species, and innumerable prairie dogs in sprawling subterranean towns. Sunrise is your best time for animal encounters, while sunset is particularly evocative as shadows dance across the lonely buttes, painting them in an array of earth tones before they fade to black.