6 Best Day Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Overview

Below you will find the 6 best day hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park! Established in 1978, this North Dakota park was founded on the land that Theodore Roosevelt called home for a time during his younger days. The park is comprised of a North and South Unit. Most of the best hiking in the area is found in the larger South Unit. In addition to hiking, this park offers visitors a chance to see an abundant amount of wildlife including bison, elk, deer, wild horses, and more. Be sure to also check out the Maltese Cross Cabin at the park’s South Unit Visitor Center where President Theodore Roosevelt lived. Theodore Roosevelt National Park Official Website.

StateNorth Dakota
Nearest Metro AreaBismarck, ND
Area Size70,447 acres
EstablishedNovember 10, 1978
Hiking Trails100 miles

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 Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

1. Painted Canyon Loop – South Unit Theodore Roosevelt National Park

This is a steep but short trail that descends into the canyon that offers great views of the surrounding landscape. Great warmup trail to introduce you to the park. The trailhead is located at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center next to I-94.

  • 1.1 miles – Loop
  • 250′ gain
  • Moderate
Painted Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt National Park,
Painted Canyon, Photo by Ken Lund

2. Wind Canyon Loop – South Unit

Offering some of the best views in the park of the Little Missouri River, this is a short hike but sure to be one of your favorites. Best accessed at sunset. The trailhead is located in a designated parking area off of Scenic Loop Drive.

  • 0.5 miles – Loop
  • 50′ gain
  • Easy
Wind Canyon Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit), Medora, North Dakota
Wind Canyon Trail, Photo by Ken Lund

3. Petrified Forest Loop – South Unit

Located in the remote northwest corner of the South Unit, this hike takes you through ancient petrified forests and badlands wilderness. combines the North Petrified Forest Trail, Maah Daah Hey, and South Petrified Forest Trail. The trailhead cannot be accessed from the park’s main road so hikers have to drive north of W River Road off of exit 23 on I-94.

  • 10.3 miles – Loop
  • 800′ gain
  • Moderate
Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest, Photo by Mark Kaletka

4. Lower Paddock Creek Loop – South Unit

This loop combines the Jones Creek Trail, the Lower Talkington Trail, and the Lower Paddock Creek Trail. Recommended trail by the park, hikers can expect to see bison and wild horses. The trailhead is can be found at a parking area on Peaceful Valley Ranch from Scenic Loop Drive.

  • 11.4 miles – Loop
  • 500′ gain
  • Moderate
Bison along Lower Paddock Creek Trail, Photo by jb10okie

5. Buckhorn Loop – North Unit Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Hike through prairie dog towns, sagebrush terraces, deep canyons, and high open prairies. Experience the diversity of plant and animal life in these distinct habitats. The trail can be accessed at several locations but I recommend starting from the Cannonball Concretions parking area near Juniper Campground.

  • 11.4 miles – Loop
  • 480′ gain
  • Moderate
Endless Paths to Follow, Photo by National Parks Gallery

6. Caprock Coulee – North Unit

The first 0.75 miles of this trail consists of the Caprock Coulee Nature Trail. The trail becomes more strenuous as it climbs to the top of a grassy butte, follows a ridgeline with incredible views, and descends back down. The trailhead is located at the Caprock Coulee parking area off Scenic Loop Drive.

  • 4.3 miles – Loop
  • 600′ gain
  • Moderate
Piping along Caprock Coulee Trail, Photo by jb10okie

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