Theodore Roosevelt National Park Travel Guide
Theodore Roosevelt in One Day
With just one day, focus on the South Unit. Arrive early at the Painted Canyon Scenic Overlook, near the visitor center, for a sweeping and colorful vista of the canyon's rock formations. Stay awhile to watch the effect of the sun's progress across the sky, or come back in the evening to witness the deepening colors and silhouettes in the fading sunlight.
Continue to the South Unit Visitor Center in Medora, spending about an hour here touring the Theodore Roosevelt exhibit and the Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin. Circle the 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive twice: once to stop and walk a few trails and visit the overlooks, and once at night to watch the wildlife. Your first time around, go counterclockwise. Stop at Scoria Point Overlook and hike 0.6 mile on Ridgeline Nature Trail. Back on the drive, stop next at the North Dakota Badlands and Boicourt overlooks to gaze at the strange, ever-changing terrain. When you pass through Peaceful Valley, look for prairie dogs. Have a packed lunch at the Cottonwood picnic area, then use a couple of hours to hike Jones Creek Trail or Coal Vein Nature Trail—or sign up for a horseback ride at Peaceful Valley Ranch.
Return to your car at least an hour before sunset, and drive slowly around Scenic Loop Drive, clockwise this time, to view the wildlife. Plan to be at Buck Hill for one of the most spectacular sunsets you'll ever see. Bring a jacket, because it's a bit windy and it gets chilly as the sun sets. After dark, drive carefully out of the park—elk and other animals may still be on the road.