North Dakota’s Badlands

The Badlands are located in west central North Dakota, near Medora, in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a 70,446 acre area separated into three units: the North, South and Elkhorn Ranch Units. The landscape is beautiful but treacherous, containing steep slopes, loose soil, slippery clay and deep sinking sand. Despite the harshness of the land, there is plenty to do and see here.

A 36 mile scenic drive through the South Unit takes you by the old west town of Medora where visitors can play golf, enter the mansion of Chateau de Mores or visit Teddy Roosevelt’s cabin, among a myriad of others activities and sights. The North Unit will show you a panoramic view of the River Bend Overlook while on a 15 mile scenic drive that houses many turnouts and interpretive signs along the way. Between these two units is the Elkhorn Ranch Unit where Teddy Roosevelt established two cattle ranches after visiting the Badlands in 1883 on a big game hunting expedition.

The park features a 96 mile mountain bike trail called the Maah Daah Hey Trail, visitor centers, hiking and nature trails, horseback tours, camping, interpretive trails and tours, wildlife viewing, western themed musicals and much more. There are more than 60 ghost towns throughout the region, as well as various nearby museums, state parks and historical sites, including the Knife River Indian Villages.

In the park you can expect to see a slew of wildlife including, snakes, buffalo, elk, pronghorn antelope, eagles, wild horses, bobcats, over 186 species of birds and many others. Take in the beautiful scenery such as the Painted Canyon, Wind Canyon, Peaceful Valley, Scenic Valley, Sandstone Formations and Cannonball Creations and don’t forget to check for fossils during your travels and sight seeing.

The climate changes quickly in the Badlands and they do receive an average of 15 inches of precipitation a year with 30 inches of that being snow during the winter. Violent thunderstorms are known to occur in the summer with blizzard conditions in the winter, while wind is considerable all year round. Temperatures range from 70-80°F during May through September (summer) and in the single digits during the winter months (December through February).

Feeding animals in the park is prohibited and walkers are advised to be alert due to the rattlesnakes and black widow spiders in the vicinity; do not place hands or feet in places you cannot see. Poison ivy and ticks are also prevalent in the late spring and early summer. Hikers should get water from approved sources only and stay on established trails. Backcountry campers are required to register at the North or South Unit Visitor Centers and there is no fee for backcountry camping permits. All water taken from natural sources must be boiled or treated before consumption and backcountry hikers are strongly encouraged to bring enough water for their entire itinerary.

Lodging and restaurants are available in the nearby communities of both the North and South Units. Pets must be leashed at all times and are not allowed in the backcountry, on trails or in park buildings. Certified weed free forage is required in the park for all horse owners and horses are prohibited from picnic areas, self guided nature trails and the Cottonwood and Juniper campgrounds. All food, lodging, gas, mail or auto repair services are located in surrounding communities, outside of the park.