3 Days in Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit

In western North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a unique and breathtaking destination. Named after the 26th President of the United States, who was instrumental in creating the national park system, this park spans over 70,000 acres of pristine wilderness. Visitors can explore the park’s rugged badlands, hike scenic trails, and observe various wildlife such as bison, elk, and prairie dogs. With its diverse landscape and rich history, Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of the American West. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park overlooks of the Little Missouri River, even with its low water levels, were stunning and the wildlife was amazing.

To use this map click on the icon in the upper left corner to pull down the menu and select points of interest from there.

Where to stay

It was a 225-mile, 4-and-a-half-hour drive to Buffalo Gap Resort, North Dakota where we stayed. We couldn’t get reservations in the park or anywhere closer to Medora. There were only 3 or 4 other RV’s staying there the 5 nights we were there. It was 2 miles off of Interstate 94 on a dirt road and 9 miles from Medora and the entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, it served its purpose as we were only there at night to eat and sleep. This was a destination on a long road trip. To see the start of this trip click, here. There is only 1 campground in the Parks South Unit so it is hard to get reservations. Click here for the Park camping reservations There are other campgrounds and hotels in Medora where the entrance to the park is located.

sunrise lighting up the golden grass and the rolling hills in Theodore Roosevelt National Park South unit

Buffalo Gap Resort

trailers and 5th wheels at the rv park at Buffalo Gap Resort

Medora

Medora is a charming tourist town, bustling with shops, motels, and restaurants. The entrance to the Park is in Medora. During our three-day stay in the South Unit, on our way in and out of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we made sure to stop for some shopping. We had a fantastic meal at The Little Missouri Saloon and Dining Room on their balcony.

The Wildlife

The Theodore Roosevelt National Park wildlife that we saw consisted of small herds of wild horses and large herds of bison. The bison were spread throughout the park and stayed mostly close to the Little Missouri River.

Group of wild horses on a grassy hillside in Theodore Roosevelt National Park South unit
Wild Horses in the Park
Bison and calf

Maltese Cross Cabin

This is the cabin where Theodore spent a lot of time when he was at the ranch. It is located at the South Unit Visitor Center. It was conserved a large cabin for the time having 3 rooms and a loft for ranch hands to sleep.

log cabin set in trees with a cloudy blue sky in Theodore Roosevelt National Park South unit

The Drive and Overlooks

The East River Road is the road at the entrance to the park and transverses most of the park. The Loop Road comes off of the East River Road and loops through a large part of the park. We ventured out on East River Road, which is dotted with various overlooks and pullouts, and then drove the Loop Road. Although it’s supposed to be a loop road, we, unfortunately, hit a roadblock for construction just a few miles before rejoining East River Road. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park overlooks were amazing.

Boicourt Overlook in our Theodore Roosevelt National Park overlooks
Boicourt Overlook

At the Wind Canyon Overlook, we were treated to an awe-inspiring view of the river, which we loved. We made sure to visit this spot twice – once during the day and once in the evening for a breathtaking sunset view. During our hikes, we encountered a lot of grasshoppers. It was quite amusing to see them take off in a frenzy with each step we took on the path.

Ekblom Trail,

We hiked the Ekblom Trail, spotting bison near the river. We accessed the trail from Peaceful Valley Ranch. After winding through some low brush for a quarter mile it came out at the river. There you either had to wade and get your hiking shoes wet or try to cross on dome rocks spread across the river. You will see more of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park wildlife here.

Lorna at the trail river crossing
Bison in the Little Missouri with his reflection in the riverin Theodore Roosevelt National Park South unit
Bison at the river crossing
Bison at the river crossing
hills and the clouds reflected in the river
Where the Emblem Trail crosses the river

The Painted Canyon Overlook

This overlook was a few miles east of Medora and in my opinion was one of the the most beautiful overlooks in the park. At sunrise with the low angle of light, it was stunning.

Conclusion

Theodore Roosevelt National Park: a must-visit for nature lovers, history buffs, and anyone craving the beauty of the American West. Whether you spend a few days or a few weeks in the park Its enjoyable. You’re sure to be captivated by the stunning landscapes and the rich history of this unique region.

It was a 3-day, 580-mile drive with overnight stops in Jamestown North Dakota, and Bemidji MN to The Pines at Lake Kabatogama and Voyageurs National Park

Lorna’s Tips and Lessons

We have six grandchildren, with a fifteen-year age gap between the oldest and youngest. To my surprise, I have found that they all enjoy receiving postcards from our travels. A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the app Snap Shot Postcard, which allows you to create personalized postcards from your photos and mail them to your family and friends without needing stamps. They have been a big hit. We don’t do a lot of shopping for souvenirs but I couldn’t resist getting a Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear.

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