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.
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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.