Discover Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Located in the heart of North Dakota, this national park stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of one of America’s most iconic figures, President Theodore Roosevelt. Spanning over 70,000 acres, the park offers a breathtaking landscape of rugged badlands, rolling prairies, and winding river valleys.

Established in 1947 to honor Roosevelt’s conservation efforts and love for the natural world, the park boasts a diverse array of flora and fauna, including bison, elk, prairie dogs, and over 100 species of birds. Visitors can explore a network of hiking trails, discover the park’s rich cultural history at the Maltese Cross Cabin, and marvel at the stunning vistas from overlooks such as Buck Hill and Wind Canyon.

Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, wildlife encounters, or a serene escape into nature, Theodore Roosevelt National Park promises an unforgettable experience amidst the vast expanse of the Great Plains.

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Top 3 Facts About Theodore Roosevelt National Park

01

Scenic Drives

The park offers over 100 miles of scenic drives, allowing visitors to explore its vast landscapes and stunning vistas. These drives wind through colorful badlands formations, rolling prairies, and along the picturesque Little Missouri River.

02

Visitor Numbers

Theodore Roosevelt National Park attracts over 700,000 visitors annually, making it one of North Dakota’s most popular tourist destinations. Its accessibility and diverse range of recreational activities draw nature lovers, hikers, and history enthusiasts from across the country.

03

Elkhorn Ranch

Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, located within the park’s boundaries, served as his personal retreat and a place of solace during his time in the Dakota Territory. Although the original structures no longer stand, visitors can hike to the site and imagine the rugged beauty that captivated Roosevelt over a century ago.

Camping and transportation in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Getting to Theodore Roosevelt National Park is relatively straightforward, although it depends on your starting point. Here’s a general guide on how to get there:

  • By Car: The most common way to reach the park is by car. The park has three units: the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit, near Medora, is the most visited and accessible. If you’re coming from the east or west, Interstate 94 runs near the South Unit, and you can take exits 27, 24, or 23 depending on your direction. From there, follow the signs to the park entrance.
  • By Air: The nearest major airports are Bismarck (BIS) and Dickinson (DIK), roughly two hours from the South Unit. You can rent a car at the airport and drive to the park.
  • Public Transportation: While there isn’t public transportation directly to the park, you may be able to take a bus or train to nearby towns like Medora or Dickinson and then arrange for a shuttle service or rental car to reach the park.

Places to Stay Near Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There are several options for lodging and camping near Theodore Roosevelt National Park, offering visitors a range of choices to suit their preferences and budget:

  • Campgrounds within the Park: Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers several campgrounds, including Juniper Campground in the North Unit and Cottonwood Campground in the South Unit. These campgrounds typically offer basic amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak summer season.
  • Medora Campgrounds: The town of Medora, located near the park’s South Unit, offers several campgrounds and RV parks. These options often provide additional amenities such as showers, laundry facilities, and proximity to dining and entertainment options in town.
  • Private Campgrounds: Private campgrounds and RV parks near the park also offer various amenities and services. These may include hookups for RVs, cabins, and recreational facilities such as swimming pools or playgrounds.
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Best Time to Go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Summer

Summer

Summer is the peak tourist season in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and for a good reason. From June to August, the park experiences warm temperatures, with daytime highs often reaching into the 80s and occasionally the 90s Fahrenheit (around 27 to 35 degrees Celsius). The long daylight hours provide ample time for outdoor activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives along the park’s picturesque roads. Summer also offers opportunities for ranger-led programs, guided hikes, and special events. However, visitors should be prepared for increased crowds and busy campgrounds, especially on weekends and holidays.

Winter

Winter

From December to February, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland, with snow blanketing the badlands and creating a picturesque scene. While temperatures can be cold, ranging from below freezing to 20s Fahrenheit (around -7 to -1 degrees Celsius), winter offers unique opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife tracking. Visitors can enjoy solitude on the park’s trails and witness the stark beauty of the badlands under a blanket of snow. However, some facilities and services may be limited during winter, so visitors should plan accordingly and check for road closures and weather advisories before traveling to the park.

Spring

Spring

Spring is a beautiful time to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park as the landscape awakens from its winter slumber. During this season, usually from April to June, the park bursts with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom across the prairies and badlands. The weather is mild, with temperatures gradually warming up and occasional rainfall bringing life to the parched landscape. Wildlife activity increases as animals emerge from hibernation, making it an excellent time for birdwatching and spotting newborn wildlife. Additionally, spring offers quieter trails and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer season, allowing visitors to enjoy the park’s serene beauty in relative solitude.

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Fall

Fall is a spectacular time to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park as the landscape transforms into a tapestry of rich hues. From September to November, the park’s cottonwood trees, shrubs, and grasses turn brilliant shades of gold, red, and orange, creating a stunning contrast against the rugged badlands formations. The weather during fall is pleasant, with cooler temperatures and crisp, clear days ideal for hiking, photography, and wildlife watching. Fall also marks the rutting season for elk and bison, offering visitors a chance to witness thrilling wildlife displays. With fewer crowds and the bonus of stunning fall foliage, autumn is considered by many to be the best time to experience the park’s natural beauty.

Must-See Attractions

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Painted Canyon

Located in the South Unit, Painted Canyon is a popular stop along the scenic loop drive. Its colorful rock formations and expansive views make it a must-see attraction for photographers and nature enthusiasts.

Elkhorn Ranch

Explore the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, located in the North Unit. Although the original structures no longer stand, visitors can hike to the ranch site and imagine life on the frontier during Roosevelt’s time.

Petrified Forest

Take a stroll through the Petrified Forest in the South Unit, where ancient petrified logs are scattered across the landscape. Interpretive exhibits along the trail provide insights into the park’s geological history.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

Before your trip, research the park’s attractions, activities, and facilities. Check for any seasonal closures, road conditions, or weather advisories that may affect your visit. Make reservations for camping or lodging if needed, especially during peak seasons.

Pack Appropriately

Protect Yourself From the Sun

Sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are essential for protecting yourself from the sun’s harsh rays, particularly during summer. Consider wearing lightweight, breathable clothing and seek shade during the hottest parts of the day.

Respect Wildlife

Respect Wildlife

Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never approach or feed them. Be especially cautious around bison, which can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Always observe wildlife from a safe distance and use binoculars or a telephoto lens for close-up views.

Stay Informed

Stay Hydrated

The park’s high desert environment can lead to dehydration, especially during hot summer months. Bring plenty of water with you, and consider carrying a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated while exploring the park.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a protected area in western North Dakota, established to honor President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and showcase the region’s rugged badlands landscape, diverse wildlife, and cultural history.

The park covers approximately 70,446 acres, divided into three units: the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

The best time to visit depends on personal preferences, but many visitors enjoy the mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers of spring, the warm weather and long daylight hours of summer, the stunning fall foliage of autumn, and the peaceful snow-covered landscapes of winter.

Visitors to the park may encounter a variety of wildlife, including bison, elk, deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, and numerous bird species. It’s important to observe wildlife from a safe distance and never approach or feed them.

Yes, the park features over 100 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging backcountry treks. Trail maps and information are available at visitor centers and online.

The park was established on November 10, 1978, although portions of it had been designated as a national monument as early as 1947.

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