There are a lot of parks honoring Teddy Roosevelt in the system. There’s the birthplace, inaugural site, and this park. So you might be forgiven if you thought it was just another building to tour through. But you’d be wrong. Very wrong. This is a full scale national park, with western vistas, amazing landscapes, activities galore, and best of all, no crowds. The park is a bit out of the way (It’s in North Dakota) and I think a lot of people just don’t know how grand it is. I easily rolled in and got a campsite at the end of the day, enjoyed a ranger program, and got a good nights sleep for the next few days adventures.
This park is split into 2 parts, north and south. It’s the only park I know of that straddles two time zones (when you enter the north unit, you lose an hour – since the north unit is in central time and the south unit is in mountain time.
In the south section, there is access to the Cabin where Teddy stayed (the park commemorates this area that the 26th president loved and which he claimed inspired him to run for office). There is a large loop trail (36 miles) with numerous scenic turnouts and hiking trails. This takes the better part of a day of you are stopping and checking things out. Of particular note is the longer “ridgeline trail”.
For my next day, I had made a reservation for a horse trail ride at “peaceful valley”. We were all given very tame horses, which was good because the last horse I rode near my house decided to jump over a large creek with me on it. But these are dedicated tourist horses, so no surprises, and an amazing multi-hour ride through the backcountry of the park. This is certainly the way to see it, without a windshield in between you and the vistas. By the time we got back, and I got off the horse, I (and everyone else) could barely walk, and I understood better the motorcycle riders who I often see at rest areas stiffly walking around like robots.
On my final day, I ventured up to the north unit (you can’t easily walk between them because of the 80 mile distance). Here there is another large scenic drive (not a loop), and I found in the middle the spectacular Caprock Coulee Trail. Truly one of the most enjoyable hikes I’ve had in a park. Firstly because there is nobody else there. Second because it’s hot and dry, the way I like my trails. Thirdly there are interesting and bizarre rock formations to see. And finally because of the vistas. My only mistake was to wear flip flop type shoes (I still don’t know what I was thinking) so I did wear my feet out something good on this hike. Fortunately, I was to be in the car for a day or two afterward so it didn’t ruin my trip.
This is one of America’s best kept secrets. Don’t tell anyone I told you…
My favorite things to do here
- Horse trail ride
- Caprock Coulee Trail
Things I want to come back to do
- Some of the other longer trails in the North section
- Bison here sometimes charge cars, so be alert
National Park Service Website: http://www.nps.gov/thro/