Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA
Open 24 hours per day, every day of the year.
outdoor-adventures, parks, road-trip, hike, camping
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If you think Theodore Roosevelt National Park isn't a 'must-see' you're sorely mistaken.
In case you didn't know that North Dakota has a National Park, it sure does! And it's a fabulous destination for family fun. Comprised of over 70,000 acres of land, this park has quite a bit to offer the outdoor adventurer. Though the park itself was established back in the 1920s, it wasn't crowned a National Park until 1978. This park never closes, even when the Visitor Centers are closed the park remains open 24 hours per day, every day of the year. Named in honor of the 26th president of the US, this park has so much to offer, it's no wonder this beautiful land inspired a lifetime of conservation efforts.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, "I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota." In 1883, Roosevelt arrived in North Dakota's badlands to hunt bison. He adored the rigorous lifestyle of a working cowboy and fell deeply in love with the land. Here, he purchased Chimney Butte Ranch, now known as Maltese Cross Ranch. Both his Maltese Cross Cabin and Elkhorn Cabin are historical sights you can visit while exploring Teddy Roosevelt National Park.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park reminded me quite a bit of South Dakota's Badlands National Park. I was surprised just how similar the geography appeared, and I had no idea this park also technically contains 'badlands.' Caused by the processes of weathering and erosion, these so-called badlands allow park visitors to view rocks aged millions of years old, without having to dig to find them. It's really quite amazing if you think about this as you view these other-worldly-looking formations.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided into three units in southwestern North Dakota: there's the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch, which is located in between the two. The South Unit is the most popular to visit, as it's located immediately off the 94, the main interstate. So, for those stopping on a cross-country trip (which is most visitors), the South Unit is the go-to. It's also the largest portion in this National Park, at nearly twice the size of the North Unit.
If you love seeing wildlife, as most avid National Park lovers do, there's plenty to see in this beautiful park. Spend a day in this park, and you have the chance to see wild horses, bighorn sheep, bison, elk, and prairie dogs. As with most National Parks, patience is the key here in catching glimpses of these creatures. For my kids, the prairie dogs were a huge hit! The prairie dog mounds are located very close to the overlooks, and the girls delighted in hearing them squeaking playfully, as they peeked out of their little holes in the ground. What an exciting experience this is for kids!
The crowning jewel of the South Unit is a 36-mile scenic drive, which offers beautiful glimpses of this gorgeous park. There are many places along the drive to get out and explore, which is key for families looking to really get a feel for the park. If you want beautiful sunset views, check out the South Unit's Boicourt Overlook Trail, which is an easy trail for families, even those with littles. The trail is only 2/10th of a mile long but does have a small bit of elevation. Wind Canyon Trail is another great option for soaking in a glorious sunset.
The North Unit is located 70 miles away, and a visit to the third and most remote portion of the park, Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch, requires a 30-mile drive down a dirt road. If you have older kiddos and are prepared for a rigorous trail adventure, Achenbach Trail in the North Unit makes for a great adventure.
For photography-buffs, and those who enjoy a little family challenge, be sure to snap away while you're in the park, and enter the annual Picture Yourself in Theodore Roosevelt National Park challenge. Winners have the chance to be featured in the park's official annual pass and calendar! What a fun challenge for photog families! And, if this leaves you wondering if our family will be submitting some snaps to the contest, all I can say is, "you betcha!".
I highly recommend a trip to North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park, whether you're looking to hike, camp, or just make a quick day trip to the area.