Theodore Roosevelt once called North Dakota “a world of beauty and color and limitless space.” Even though a century has passed since his descriptive quotation, the Peace Garden State remains largely unchanged, offering miles of painted canyons, grassy trails, and pristine lakes. If you like the outdoors – and don’t mind a little wind chill – you’ll find lots to do in North Dakota. From Medora on the far western side of the state to Fargo on the eastern border, here are a few North Dakota experiences that will leave you as enamored as our 26th president.
Stop #1: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Spanning more than 70,000 total acres, you can spend days enjoying North Dakota and never leave Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park is divided into three sections: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. Whether you visit the busier southern unit near Medora or the northern unit near Watford City, you can hike along majestic canyons and prairies, soaking up views that go on for miles. Keep an eye out for bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and the nearly 200 types of birds.
Off the dirt trail, take a canoe or kayak trip along the Little Missouri River. Plan a day trip from Medora, and paddle from Sully Creek State Park to Cottonwood Campground. The park also offers ample opportunities for backcountry camping, fishing, and cross-country skiing. Mountain bikers can cycle the Maah Daah Hey Trail, a 98-mile dirt path that connects the park’s southern and northern units.
Stop #2: Enchanted Highway
About 90 miles west of Bismarck, turn off I-94 at exit 72 to discover seven huge sculptures conceived by retired educator Gary Greff, who wanted to draw more people to his tiny town of Regent. You’ll observe geese in flight, a deer crossing, pheasants, and other towering figures created mostly from metal. It’s one of the finest displays of public art you’ll see in the middle of nowhere.
Stop #3: Lake Metigoshe State Park
A departure in landscape and miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Lake Metigoshe provides an idyllic spot for vacationers to enjoy a favorite local pastime: spending a weekend at the lake. Situated 200 miles north of Bismarck near the Canadian border, Lake Metigoshe offers a beach for sunbathing, nice cabins, and opportunities for canoeing and walleye fishing. Campground amenities include electrical hookups, showers, kitchen, playground, and picnic areas.
Stop #4: International Peace Garden
Summer is a great time to visit this tribute to peace between the U.S. and Canada, when the vegetation blossoms with yellow, orange, and purple perennials and annuals. Located near the Canadian border off Highway 281 in the heart of the Turtle Mountains, The International Peace Garden provides space for reflection, a family picnic, or a short hike. Stop by in April or May to see the cactus in bloom.
Stop #5: Fargo
Fargo is the kind of town where friendly locals smile and wave at one another. When the weather is mild, venture out to bike, walk, or run the more than 90 miles of trails around town. During chillier seasons, sled, snowshoe, or ski on cross-country ski trails throughout the city, or visit one of the 17 outdoor hockey and ice-skating rinks.
Arts lovers can explore Fargo’s many museums, galleries, and entertainment venues. The historic Fargo Theatre offers performing arts, film, comedy, and community events in Art Deco surroundings. Plains Art Museum features contemporary and traditional works, while several small galleries display the talent of local and visiting artists.
What North Dakota lacks in population density it more than makes up for with breathtaking natural surroundings. If you miss seeing the stars at night, then make North Dakota your next vacation destination. Share photos of your adventures on the Great Plains on our Instagram page.