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Not many people visiting national parks consider traveling to North Dakota, but it’s actually home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the most surprising national parks in the U.S.!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a relatively unknown national park and isn’t as visited as nearby parks in South Dakota, Montana, or Wyoming. It is also the only national park in North Dakota, although there are national trails and national historic sites.
This Guide to Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park has everything you need to know about visiting the park, including wildlife, hiking, and so much more.
How to Get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is actually split up into 3 sections: South Unit, North Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit is the most visited as it sits right off of I-94 by Medora, North Dakota. The North Unit is about 80 miles north of there.
The Little Missouri River crosses all 3 sections, and you can hike to all 3 via the 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail.
Remember, when visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you will need a US National Park Pass. They are $80 for an annual pass. It’s good for one year rom date of purchase.
Where to Stay in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
If you are looking to stay in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, they have campsites available for reservation in the park as well as backcountry camping.
To reserve a campsite in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, check out the park’s website for all up-to-date information.
If camping isn’t your thing, you can also stay in Medora, North Dakota at either an Airbnb or a hotel.
There are dispersed camping sites near Theordore Roosevelt National Park in the National Grassland outside of the park. This is a great way to save money when traveling, but make sure you are prepared as there are no facilities or amenities when dispersed camping.
If you aren’t into camping, but don’t want a hotel or Airbnb, learn how to do a car to camper conversion for any car!
You can also follow our step-by-step guide to learn how we converted our Honda Fit into a camper!
Drive the Loop Road
The most popular thing to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the loop drive through the South Unit. It’s a 36 mile scenic drive that takes you through the entire park where you can spot different wildlife, enjoy outlooks, and access various trailheads.
Due to the extreme changes in weather the park experiences throughout the year, the loop drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park is often in need of repair, so check with the visitor center or park ranger to see the conditions of the road.
If parts of the loop road are not accessible, drive as much of it as you can. It’s a very easy, peaceful drive with chances to see different parts of the park and a lot of the wildlife that calls Theodore Roosevelt National Park home.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park Wildlife
There are many different animals that live inside the park, including a few that you will not be able to spot in nearby, more visited national parks, like Badlands, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton.
The main wildlife in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are bison, elk, mule deer, white-tail deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and feral horses.
While some of these animals, like bison, elk, and prairie dogs are pretty easily spotted in other nearby parks, it’s the feral horses that really stand out. There are not many other national parks that you’ll be able to see feral horses.
Driving the loop road will give you the best chance to see the feral horses. The best chances to see the feral horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are between where the loop road crosses I-94 near Andrews Creek to Cottonwood Campground.
Drive slow and keep an eye out because you will not want to miss a chance at seeing the beautiful feral horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Aside from the feral horses, there is a very good chance you will at least be able to see bison and prairie dogs. Due to the low number of visitors, there are excellent opportunities to see wildlife at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
While most stick to the driving the loop road, there are various hikes in the park that range from short and easy to longer and more difficult.
Most of the hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park cross the middle of the park, which the loop road circles. The hikes are short, and most can be day hikes.
Depending on the hike you choose, you can also hike out one trail and connect to another to make a loop, so you aren’t stuck doing an out-and-back hike.
There are also shorter hikes you can do from different overlook spots that will just take you a little bit off the road and into nature a bit. Obviously, they are far different from backcountry hiking, but if you only have one day at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, those short hikes are great options.
Check out this Complete Day Hike Packing List for everything you need to pack for a day hike during your visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park!
This small, under-the-radar national park is definitely worth the stop if you are passing by the area and visiting other nearby national parks, like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, or Badlands. Even if you just stop for a few hours and do the loop road drive, it’s absolutely worth it!