North Dakota: Dinosaurs & Badlands Bison

North Dakota: Dinosaurs & Badlands Bison

Abandoned Barn, Little Missouri National Grassland

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This quiet and often remote-feeling drive passes through some of North Dakota’s loveliest and most dramatic scenery, taking in the history and nightlife of busy little Medora, the beauty and wildlife of North Dakota’s Badlands in the form of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and ending up close to the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence, one of North Dakota’s many Lewis & Clark-related sites.

Here are some highlights along the route.

Dickinson, North Dakota (Starting point)
Dickinson’s main visitor attractions are its excellent dinosaur museum, home to 14 full-scale dinosaurs, and the separate museum center with its historic village. The city also hosts events including a festival celebrating the Ukrainian roots of many of those who settled round here, and the annual Roughrider Days Fair.

Medora (mile 35)
Head west on Interstate 94 and you arrive in the busy town of Medora, famed for the Western musical variety show that’s staged at the outdoor Burning Hills Amphitheatre every night throughout the summer months. Even if musicals aren’t your thing, the town’s museums and historic buildings, including the Rough Riders Hotel, built in 1885, and a wide choice of shops, restaurants and lodging possibilities make Medora an extremely popular vacation destination so book ahead if you’re planning to stay overnight.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit) (mile 36)
Begin with a tour of the Maltese Cross Cabin, where Roosevelt first realized his love for the region, then follow the 36-mile scenic loop drive through North Dakota’s Badlands. There are trails suitable for all visitors, from nature walks of less than half a mile to the more challenging 96-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail that links the south and north units.

Grassy Butte (mile 93)
The drive between the two units passes through Little Missouri National Grassland, the views interrupted only by the occasional derelict barn. Grassy Butte is a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it little community 15 miles south of the north unit. Set aside 10 minutes to stop and visit the charming old post office, a sod-roofed building built in 1914.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit) (mile 106)
The 13.7 mile drive that leads west through the beautiful north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is designated a scenic byway, and rightly so. Passing through open prairie, past herds of grazing bison (nothing’s guaranteed of course but you’d be unlucky not to see them) and ending with a panoramic view over an oxbow in the Little Missouri River, this is the jewel in the crown of southwest North Dakota’s many natural attractions.

Williston (mile 168)
No drive in North Dakota is complete without at least one stop for a bit of Lewis and Clark history and just west of Williston is the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence, through which the Corps of Discovery passed in 1805 and 1806. Other historic attractions close by include Fort Union Trading Post and the military supply depot of Fort Buford, both well worth the visit.

This route was first published on RoadTrip America. To see hundreds of other route suggestions, visit