Planning a Legendary North Dakota Road Trip

When I have time off from work, my family has come to expect that we will be going on a trip of some sort. Most often, I choose the destination and I typically do most of the planning, but I do seek input from the rest of the clan. Collectively, we prefer to travel to places that most would consider “off the radar” and perhaps even unpopular. We don’t care to take part in any sort of popularity contests, travel or otherwise; rather, we take great care in planning our trips to include adventure, educational opportunities, and a fair amount of fun. There’s one legendary place near the top of my travel wish list that meets these requirements, and it’s where we will be headed this summer: North Dakota.

Planning a legendary North Dakota road trip

My family and I have a week to road trip across North Dakota from west to east. Keeping in line with North Dakota’s inherent spirit of adventure, we decided to camp along the way in our pop-up camper. The more significant details of our trip are confirmed, and our itinerary is shaping up to be quite adventurous!

Day 1-5: Medora – Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Since making the New York Times’s list of places to travel in 2016, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) has gained quite a bit of notoriety. I’ll admit, TRNP is the biggest reason I’ve wanted to travel North Dakota. During and beyond his years as President, Theodore Roosevelt was a key player in the early history of the National Park Service, an agency I’ve supported for decades. So to spend time in the national park named in his honor would be a dream come true for me.

Planning a legendary North Dakota road trip | Little Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

I’ve allotted four days in TRNP so we can explore as much of its 70,448 acres as possible. The park is divided into three official units: South Unit, Elkhorn Ranch Unit, and North Unit. The South and North Units are the two most visited. Elkhorn Ranch is the site of Roosevelt’s “home ranch”. All that is left of the ranch today are foundation stones from the original buildings. Many visitors to the park don’t make it out there, though, for it requires a high-clearance vehicle for the 35-mile ride, strictly on gravel roads. Both the South and North Units feature scenic drives, ranger programs, and miles of hiking trails.

Campsite: Medora Campground. The town of Medora, North Dakota, is adjacent to the South Unit entrance of TRNP. Medora Campground has 150 campsites of various sizes, showers, and electric hook-ups.

Day 5-6: Mandan – Bismarck

Leaving Medora, we will head east on I-94 and take a little detour on the Enchanted Highway. It is 32 miles long, beginning at Exit 72 on I-94 near Gladstone and terminating in the small town of Regent. What makes this highway “enchanted” are the seven larger-than-life scrap-metal sculptures lining the road. There is a dedicated pull-out at each sculpture for travelers to stop and have a closer look. The kids are going to love it!

Planning a legendary North Dakota road trip | Enchanted Highway

We will again head north to get back on I-94 and continue on to Mandan, where we will set up camp at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. The 977-acre park is situated on the banks of the legendary Missouri River. Rich in First Nations history, the park is home to On-A-Slant Indian Village, the site occupied by the Mandan people for approximately 400 years. Today, there are reconstructed earth lodges on the site that allow visitors a glimpse into the Mandan lifestyle.

Planning a legendary North Dakota road trip | Earth lodges at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

About six miles to the east of Mandan is Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. Must-dos we have on our list for Bismarck include a visit to the state capitol and a ride on the Missouri aboard the Lewis & Clark Riverboat.

Day 6-7: Fargo

Moving east again along I-94, our next stop is Fargo. Honestly, I am so looking forward to visiting North Dakota’s largest city. It has a reputation for being “north of normal” and its collective quirkiness certainly appeals to me. I am also very much interested in Fargo’s flourishing craft beer scene. My kids are accustomed to visiting breweries on our travels so they won’t even think twice when we stop at a few in Fargo. Brewing is all about science so it’s educational, right? Lastly, my family cannot leave Fargo without having our photo taken with “the woodchipper”.

Planning a legendary North Dakota road trip | Downtown Fargo

Campsite: We will camp right in the city limits at Lindenwood Campground, a unit of the Fargo Park District.

Is this itinerary legendary or what? Are you considering a trip to North Dakota or have you been? Let me know your must-sees and must-dos in the comments below!

This post is brought to you by North Dakota Tourism. All photos contained belong to North Dakota Tourism. All words and opinions are, as always, my own.

Planning a legendary North Dakota Road Trip | North Dakota, USA

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21 Responses to Planning a Legendary North Dakota Road Trip

  1. Sara Broers April 27, 2017 at 6:13 pm #

    You will love this adventure. I can’t wait to follow along.

  2. Vicki Winters April 27, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

    I’d like to see the car dealership from the movie FARGO:-)

  3. Charles McCool April 29, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    Cool look at North Dakota. I only claim I have visit ND because I spent a night in Fargo but I want to spend a lot of time road tripping around the state, like you did. Such fun.

  4. Dawn April 29, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    Don’t forget to stop and see the large buffalo in Jamestown and the frontier village and buffalo museum – between Bismarck and Fargo. Also check out Salem Sue (Holstein cow) by New Salem between Dickinson and Bismarck. Both just off Interstate 94.

    • Emily April 29, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

      Oh YES! Salem Sue! A perfect stop to stretch your legs after driving a bit from Medora! So random and fun!

  5. Emily April 29, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

    You are going to love North Dakota! Feel free to message me with any questions! I would stop in Jamestown on your way from Bismarck to Fargo. The giant Buffalo and live Buffalo are fun to see and there are some old-time buildings to check out. It’s just a nice place to stop and stretch 🙂 Are you going to be able to see the Musical in Medora? Definitely worth it!! In Bismarck you should eat at Woodfire Pizza downtown. It is next to the Laughing Sun Brewery and they will deliver beer to the pizza place! The gelato is amazing too! Make sure when you go to the capitol that you head all the way to the top floor and see the views! It’s gorgeous! There are lots of paths to walk on at the capitol, lots of steps, random things to climb on….my daughter loves hanging out on the grounds! There is also the Mandan Trolley. You can ride it to Fort Lincoln State Park, or you can get on it at the park. It’s a great little ride and the owners are the best 🙂

  6. Jessica April 30, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

    This sounds like a great road trip, fun and off the radar! Can’t wait to read your stories this summer! Have a great trip…

  7. Megan Jerrard April 30, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

    Oh wow, this sounds like an incredible trip! I would love to explore North Dakota, so will be eagerly following your updates. I actually just read a post this morning from another blog which detailed the various different native American tribes, and how you can visit and attend powwows etc – might be a fun thing to include also!

  8. knycx.journeying April 30, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    Wow North Dakota – thanks for the blog or I would not have known a little bit more about these states in the America. I think I would appreciate the stunning beauty and the picturesque landscape of a road trip. I will take note in case I am visiting these places in the future! @ knycx.journeying

  9. Alice May 1, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    I haven’t been to North Dakota yet but I plan to on my next trip to the US 🙂 The TNRP looks amazing, I would definitely go there!!

  10. Dannielle May 3, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    I basically knew nothing about ND so this was a useful guide! Can’t wait to do a USA road trip one day.

  11. Tami May 3, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Love that photo of main street Fargo — what a quaint little town, even if it IS quirky. Sure sounds like you have a fun trip planned, with room for adventure, beautiful scenery, history and more! Interested in having me come along for the ride? 🙂

  12. Evelyne CulturEatz May 4, 2017 at 10:13 am #

    Wow sounds like a great trip, lots of time in a great natural park too! So I am a big TV (and movie) series fargo fan, I would love to visit just for that lol.

  13. Agness of Fit Travelling May 5, 2017 at 8:23 am #

    This seems like an amazing road trip! Loved the pictures, Francesca!

  14. Carmen's Luxury Travel May 5, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    I’ve never been to North Dakota but have only heard great things! Your stunning photos have convinced me. Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

  15. Claire May 5, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    This sounds like an incredible trip. As a London girl I don’t go over to the states very often but I would love to do a road trip the next time I go. I think it would be a great way to see more of a country I don’t get to visit too often. Love your pictures

  16. Tam Warner Minton May 9, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    Ah, a place I really do want to go!

  17. Leigh June 6, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    This looks like so much fun! I think it’s great to slow down and really explore the states that many of us just drive through on our way to the Rockies. Seeing wild ponies at TRNP was super cool!

  18. Traveling Ted June 8, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    Ahhhh, reminds me of my wonderful week in North Dakota a few years back. Look forward to hearing about your legendary adventures and pictures.

  19. Jen June 13, 2017 at 7:52 pm #

    Theodore Roosevelt National Park looks beautiful! We mostly travel to forested areas, so I have been wanting to plan a trip to a more rocky park.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. North Dakota Destinations: Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park - September 29, 2017

    […] Abraham Lincoln State Park in Mandan, North Dakota, was a stop on our Legendary North Dakota road trip this past summer. Just south of I-94 and 13 miles outside of the capital of Bismarck, it […]

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