Theodore Roosevelt Overview

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, situated in the rugged badlands of western North Dakota, USA, stands as a living monument to the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who once lived and ranched in the area. Encompassing approximately 70,446 acres (285 square kilometers), the park is divided into three geographically separated areas: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, each offering unique landscapes and wildlife experiences. Established as a national memorial park in 1947 and redesignated as a national park in 1978, the park honors Roosevelt’s enduring legacy in conservation and his profound love for the American wilderness.

The park’s dramatic terrain features expansive rolling grasslands, winding rivers, and colorful, eroded badlands formations that provide a backdrop for the rich flora and fauna native to the region. These landscapes were deeply influential in shaping Roosevelt’s perspectives on nature and conservation, leading to the establishment of the National Park Service and several national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges across the country.

Wildlife viewing is a major attraction, with the park being home to American bison, wild horses, elk, prairie dogs, and numerous bird species. These animals roam freely, offering visitors a glimpse into the area’s natural ecosystem. The park’s network of trails and scenic drives, such as the 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive in the South Unit and the 14-mile Scenic Byway in the North Unit, provide ample opportunities for exploration and photography.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park also preserves several historic sites, including Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin and the Elkhorn Ranch site, offering insights into Roosevelt’s life and the time he spent in the Dakotas. These cultural sites, combined with the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the park, make it a destination for those seeking to experience the spirit of the American West and understand the roots of the conservation movement in the United States.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park Highlights


Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a rugged landscape in the North Dakota Badlands, celebrates the conservation legacy of its namesake by providing a haven for diverse wildlife species, each adding to the park’s wild beauty and offering visitors a glimpse into America’s natural heritage.

Bison Roaming the rolling prairies, bison symbolize the spirit of the Old West, their herds a majestic sight that dominates the park’s landscape.

Wild Horse Descendants of domesticated stock, wild horses add a touch of the untamed to the park, their bands freely roaming the badlands and grasslands.

Elk In the quieter corners of the park, elk can be seen grazing, especially at dawn and dusk, their bugles echoing during the rutting season.

Prairie Dog Colonies of prairie dogs are a common and entertaining sight, their intricate burrow systems dotting the park’s grasslands, a keystone species of the ecosystem.

Mule Deer Adapted to the park’s rugged terrain, mule deer are often spotted at the edge of woodlands and open spaces, browsing on the diverse vegetation.

Bighorn Sheep With their impressive curled horns, bighorn sheep navigate the park’s rocky outcrops with ease, a testament to the adaptability and resilience of wildlife.

Golden Eagle Soaring above the badlands, golden eagles embody the freedom of the open skies, their keen eyesight scouting the ground below for prey.

Coyote The cunning coyote, an emblem of the American wilderness, is frequently heard at night and seen traversing the park, a versatile predator and scavenger.

Turkey Vulture Circling the skies, turkey vultures are often seen riding thermals, their presence vital to the ecosystem as nature’s cleanup crew.

Badger The elusive badger, with its distinctive markings and powerful digging abilities, is a rare sight, embodying the rugged survivalism of the park’s inhabitants.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s wildlife, from the iconic bison to the solitary badger, invites visitors to explore and appreciate the enduring legacy of conservation and the vibrant tapestry of life in one of America’s most storied landscapes.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Pictures

Engaging Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Lace up your boots and hit the trails to discover the park’s stunning scenery up close. Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging treks. Explore the park’s diverse landscapes, including badlands formations, prairie grasslands, and riparian areas, while immersing yourself in the tranquility of nature.

Explore the rugged beauty of Theodore Roosevelt National Park on its scenic drives, including the 36-mile (58-kilometer) loop road that winds through the park’s North Unit and South Unit. Enjoy panoramic views of the badlands landscape, with opportunities to spot wildlife and admire the colorful rock formations along the way.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Trails

Painted Canyon Nature Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.9 miles loop with an elevation gain of about 150 feet (46 meters)

Description: This short loop offers an excellent introduction to the park’s dramatic badlands terrain. Hikers can enjoy colorful rock formations, sweeping vistas, and potential wildlife sightings. The trail is accessible from the Painted Canyon Visitor Center and is perfect for families or those seeking a quick but rewarding hike.

Petrified Forest Loop

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 10.6 miles loop with an elevation gain of about 250 feet (76 meters)

Description: One of the park’s more remote trails, this loop takes hikers through the park’s petrified forest, one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Along the way, hikers will see stunning badlands formations and may encounter bison, prairie dogs, and wild horses in their natural habitat.

Wind Canyon Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.4 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: This short trail leads to one of the most picturesque spots in the park, offering breathtaking views of the Little Missouri River winding through the badlands. Perfect for sunset, the Wind Canyon Trail is an easy walk that rewards hikers with panoramic views and excellent photo opportunities.

Boicourt Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.3 miles out and back with minimal elevation gain

Description: Offering expansive views of the badlands with very little effort, the Boicourt Trail is an accessible option for all visitors. Overlooks along the trail provide stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape, making it a favorite for photographers and families.

Caprock Coulee Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 4.3 miles loop with an elevation gain of about 400 feet (122 meters)

Description: This trail takes hikers through some of the park’s most scenic badlands, with diverse terrain including grasslands, coulees, and caprock formations. The Caprock Coulee Trail offers a more challenging hike that showcases the rugged beauty of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, with opportunities to see bison and other wildlife along the way.


1. What is Theodore Roosevelt National Park known for?

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located in North Dakota, is known for its rugged badlands, scenic vistas, and abundant wildlife. Named after the 26th President of the United States, who had a deep appreciation for the natural world, the park preserves the rugged landscape that Roosevelt once explored and found solace in.

One of the main attractions of the park is its stunning badlands scenery, characterized by colorful rock formations, dramatic cliffs, and sweeping prairie vistas. Visitors can explore the park’s scenic drives, hiking trails, and overlooks to take in the breathtaking views of the rugged terrain.

In addition to its scenic beauty, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is renowned for its wildlife viewing opportunities. The park is home to a variety of species, including bison, elk, deer, prairie dogs, and numerous bird species. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot these animals roaming freely in their natural habitat throughout the park.

Overall, Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty and tranquility of the North Dakota badlands while learning about the legacy of one of America’s most influential conservationists.

  • All Trails, Best Trails in Theodore Roosevelt National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Theodore Roosevelt National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Geographic, Complete National Parks of the United States, National Geographic Publishing, Washington DC.
  • National Geographic, Guide to the National Parks of the United States, National Geographic Society, 2003.
  • National Geographic, National Parks of North America, Canada-United States-Mexico, National Geographic Society, 1995.
  • National Park Service, Theodore Roosevelt National Park,, retrieved April 2024.