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Painted Canyon

4 Spectacular Overlook Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt NP

Enjoy one of these 4 easy and family-friendly hikes in the Southern Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND.

Hiking Easy

Painted Canyon
Painted Canyon Photo: Fritzmb


Theodore Roosevelt National Park encompasses nearly 70,000 acres spread across the remote western reaches of North Dakota. As the “only American national park named directly after a single person,” the park is divided into three units, with the South Unit as the largest and most visited thanks to nearby Interstate 94. In addition to the park’s main backcountry hiking trails, a scenic 36-mile scenic drive tours the park and is loaded with “rolling, jumbled badlands with fantastic scenery in all directions,” the park notes. Whether you’re planning to visit one – or all 4 – these are the best short hikes along Scenic Loop Road in Theodore Roosevelt NP.

If you just arrived at the park, begin your visit with the Skyline Vista Trail, a paved path to an impressive view overlooking the Little Missouri River. The park boasts how Skyline offers “wonderful views of the western horizon," and that the 15-minute round-trip hike is perfect for any age or ability. Seating is even available at the overlook so you can catch your breath while soaking in the incredible views of the surrounding badlands.

Heading north past Cottonwood Campground, the Southern Unit’s only campground, the Wind Canyon Trail offers an easy hike to the self-proclaimed “best view of the Little Missouri River,” according to the park. The easy nature trail wanders alongside wind-sculpted canyons and is described as a “totally mesmerizing sight when the sun sets behind the badlands,” this source writes.

To hike to the highest point in the park, plan a stop at Buck Hill. It’s short and steep, but worth every step as you hike to commanding views of the badlands to the south and gently rolling prairies and grasslands to the north. At just 2,850 feet, it isn’t particularly high, but “the comparative flatness of the surrounding area means you'll get breathtaking views of the surrounding North Dakota prairie and badlands, this source writes.

Another ranger favorite, the Biocourt Overlook offers an awe-inspiring vantage of the park with the option to hike less than 15 minutes to an even more impressive overlook. According to the park, "Theodore Roosevelt described the Little Missouri Badlands as '...a land of vast, silent spaces...' and standing at the Biocourt Overlook, you can understand what he meant." Though you could enjoy the views from the comfort of your vehicle at the main overlook, this short family-friendly trail is a must-do and well worth the effort.

Sources: NPS Wikipedia

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