Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President from 1901 to 1909, is known as the “conservation president.” He created the U.S. Forest Service and also established numerous national forests, bird reserves, game preserves, national parks, and national monuments. It’s fitting that North Dakota’s national park, an area where Roosevelt hunted, ranched, and grieved the passing of both his wife and his mother, is named after him. A drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located in the North Dakota Badlands, was a highlight of our week-long road trip through North Dakota last summer.
I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota. — Theodore Roosevelt
The Three Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided into three units: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. Since we stayed in Medora the night before our visit to the park, we explored the South Unit.
Don’t miss a Midwest Wanderer post. For a FREE subscription, enter your e-mail address in the Subscribe2 box to the right and click Subscribe.
Before driving the 36-mile loop trail through the park’s South Unit, we stopped at the visitor center. We picked up a park map, watched a short orientation film, checked out some exhibits. and walked out to the Maltese Cross Cabin. Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin was moved here from its original location and restored.
Driving the Scenic South Unit Loop
The 36-mile scenic loop took us at least four hours to drive. We stopped at overlooks, hiked a few trails, and oohed and aahed at the Painted Canyon topography. We photographed feral horses, bison, and elk and watched prairie dogs pop in and out of their burrows.
Rather than trying to further describe the beauty of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park wildlife and landscape, I’ll show you with photos.
The North Unit
Because the North Unit is 68 driving miles from the South Unit, we didn’t go there. I’d love to go back and explore it sometime. A 14-mile scenic drive winds through the North Unit, with overlooks, trails, and a herd of longhorn steers.
Elkhorn Ranch Unit
The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is the site of Roosevelt’s second North Dakota ranch. Park brochures advise you to check with one of the visitor centers before heading there, as the roads are steep and unpaved. Buildings no longer exist at the ranch but markers and exhibit panels tell the story.
If you visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The easiest access to Theodore Roosevelt National Park is from I-94, Exit 24 or 27 to Medora. Follow the signs to the park entrance. The South Unit Visitor Center operates on Mountain Time and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit the park website for additional details.
We stayed at the historic Rough Riders Hotel during our visit to Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Check room rates
Disclosures: North Dakota Tourism hosted our North Dakota road trip. However, any opinions expressed in this article are my own.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you book a hotel room through the “Check room rates” link above, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe. I will notify you whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm. – Connie