If you have heard about the US states of North Dakota and South Dakota, it might sound like they are boring places to go to. But, there is something about these two states, collectively known as the Dakotas, that I would like to note. It is the fact that the Dakotas is home to not just one or two, but three national parks of the US. So, if you are looking for a reason to visit the Dakotas, you will want to visit these three national parks.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in western North Dakota. This national park is noted for its scenic badlands. The national park is named after Theodore Roosevelt who was the president of the US at the start of the 20th century. He visited the badlands of North Dakota in September of 1883 in order to hunt bison. After Teddy arrived, he fell in love with the sweeping badlands.
It is his experience there that inspired him to push for land conservation during his presidency. The national park is divided into three sections: the South Unit, the North Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit is the largest section and the easiest one to get to. This section is located along the north side of Interstate 94 just outside the charming small village of Medora.
The North Unit is located around 80 miles north of the South Unit on US Route 85. The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located somewhere between these two sections. One great way to appreciate Theodore Roosevelt National Park is to go for a scenic drive in order to soak in the scenery of the badlands. In the South Unit, there is a road that wind its way around to form a 36 mile loop.
Along the way, you will come across numerous scenic overlooks where you can stop and take in the views. In the North Unit, you can take a drive along the 14 mile road that travels from the bottom to the top of the badlands. There are two scenic overlooks to note along the way. They are River Bend Overlook and Oxbow Overlook. They offer the best badlands views in the North Unit.
Wildlife is another thing about the national park I would like to note. Bison are the most common animals you will get to see at the national park. In addition to bison, you can also observe mule deer, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, horses, coyotes, pronghorn, bald and golden eagles, white-tailed deer, turkeys, and elk. One great place to view wildlife is the scenic overlooks along the two scenic roads.
You can also spot wildlife as you drive along these two roads. If you are interested in learning about Teddy Roosevelt and how his love of the North Dakota badlands transformed him, you can do so by going to the Maltese Cross Cabin which is located in the South Unit. Both the South Unit and the North Unit have an onsite visitor center with a store within.
The entrance fees for Theodore Roosevelt National Park are $30 for vehicles, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for those arriving by foot or bicycle. The entrance passes are good for up to seven days after being purchased.
Hotel Suggestion: AmericInn by Wyndham Medora
This hotel is located on East River Road South in Medora, North Dakota just outside Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There is complimentary breakfast available. If you get hungry, a few dining options nearby include Theodore’s Dining Room, the Farmhouse Cafe, and Little Missouri Dining Room & Saloon. There is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel.
A sauna and fitness center are also available for you to use. All of the hotel’s rooms and suites offer WiFi, mini refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers. The average rate for a standard room range from $71 to $264. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or view some photos.
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota. This national park is renowned for its rugged beauty in which mixed grass prairie are dotted with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires. Badlands National Park contains the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. The national park is also noted for its fossils.
The fossils belonged to ancient mammals like rhinos, horses, and saber-toothed cats that once lived and roamed in what is now the national park. In fact, the national park is home to one of the richest fossil beds in the world. Badlands National Park is now home to the black-footed ferret which is currently considered one of the most endangered animals in the world.
In addition to the black-footed ferret, a few of the other animals that currently roam the national park include bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs. There are about eight hiking trails at the national park that you can take on depending on your hiking skill level and preference for length. The Door Trail is by far the easiest trail to hike on. It is also the one that leads to a sweeping view of the national park scenery.
On this trail, you will hike on a boardwalk that heads through a break in the Badlands Wall nicknamed the Door. It is at this point that you will receive the views. On the other hand, the Notch Trail is arguably the most challenging trail to hike on as it involves hiking along the ledge of a sharply eroded rock formation. You also have to account for numerous drop-offs on this trail.
Even with these challenges, you will be rewarded to breathtaking views of the White River Valley. The entrance fees for Badlands National Park are $25 for vehicles, $15 for motorcycles, and $12 for those arriving on foot or bicycle. The entrance passes will be good for seven days after purchase. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center houses a bookstore and exhibits regarding the national park.
Hotel Suggestion: Baymont by Wyndham Rapid City
This hotel is located on Cheyenne Boulevard in Rapid City, South Dakota which is about 62 miles west of Badlands National Park via Interstate 90. There is complimentary breakfast at the hotel. A few nearby restaurants include Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews, Dakotah Steakhouse, and Marco’s Pizza. There is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub available for you to use.
You can take care of your workouts at the hotel’s fitness center. All of the hotel’s rooms come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $44 to $207. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota near the state border with Nebraska and Wyoming. This is only one of three caves in the US to be designated a national park. This is one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Wind Cave receives its name from barometric winds which are found at the cave’s entrance.
This cave national park is famous for its boxwork which is a cave formation that is rarely found in any other caves on Earth. In addition to boxwork, some of the other cave formations found at this cave national park include frostwork and popcorn. You can only explore the cave as a part of a guided tour group at Wind Cave National Park. There are three main options for guided tours of this cave.
They are Garden of Eden Tour, Natural Entrance Tour, and Fairgrounds Tour. The first two tours are designed for those with moderate hiking skill level while the third tour is intended for those with advanced hiking skill level. You will be climbing a great number of stairs on all the three tours. The number of stairs climbed range from 150 stairs in the first tour to an eye-popping 450 stairs in the third tour.
Each of the three tours are priced separately from each other. The first tour goes for $10 for adults and $5 for children aged 6 to 16. The second and third tours are each priced at $12 for adults and $6 for children aged 6 to 16. All of the tours are free for those aged 5 and under. The tours are based on a schedule and you can go here to see it. The Wind Cave Visitor Center include exhibit rooms dedicated to the cave.
Hotel Suggestion: Baymont by Wyndham Hot Springs
This hotel is located on South 6th Street in Hot Springs, South Dakota which is about seven miles south of Wind Cave National Park. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. There are also barbeque facilities available onsite. Woolly’s Grill and Cellar, Big Time Pizza, and Dairy Queen are a few nearby restaurants. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel.
A fitness center is also available for you to use. All of the hotel’s rooms have WiFi, microwaves, mini refrigerators, and coffee makers. The average rate for a standard room range from $62 to $155. You can head here to see your booking options and/or browse some photos.
All in all, the Dakotas is home to three of the national parks of the US. So, if you are looking for a reason to visit the Dakotas, you will want to be sure to check them out. What are your thoughts? Have you visited any of these national parks before? Feel free to leave a comment here.