I realized a few years ago that I was traveling all over to see national parks in other states, when I hadn’t really explored the national parks in my state and the neighboring state. Our first trip to the badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we stayed in the South Unit at the Cottonwood Campground. The South Unit is far more populated by tourists and way more crowded, but offers a little more variety in hikes and things to do close by in the town of Medora. We visited the South Unit with two of our friends, Brad and Chantell who had been there numerous times before so they showed us their favorite trails and overlooks. We had bison come through our campground and right up to our tents and of course ate way too much ice cream.
The second time visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Brady and I stayed in the North Unit at the Juniper Campground. The North Unit was a lot quieter and had way less people. There were fewer hikes, but they were much longer. We watched the sunset at the Oxbow Overlook at the end of the road. I personally liked the North Unit better due to it being more remote and I thought it was more scenic in some areas. Since my first time visiting each unit, I’ve been back to the South Unit and around Medora for engagement photos and the Painted Canyon is one of my favorite lookouts in TRNP. Being able to watch the sunset at an overlook in each unit makes it really hard to decide between the two.
After having explored both units in TRNP, I wanted to visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota to see the variety in badlands the Dakotas has to offer. I had a wedding in Deadwood, South Dakota and my friend Annie tagged along so we could go explore Badlands National Park for a few days after. The scenery is very different from TRNP; although it’s still the badlands, South Dakota was more desolate and didn’t have a lot of greenery like TRNP. The park consists of a lot of very short trails and a few moderate length ones. BNP is located in the town of Interior which is very small. The day we did all of our hiking it was in the nineties with almost 100% humidity. We camped at the Cedar Pass Campground which is located right before the entrance to the Badlands Loop Road that runs through the park. This park has so many overlooks off the road to stop and see, my favorites being the Badlands Wilderness Overlook and Big Badlands Overlook.
One year later after visiting Badlands National Park for the first time, I had the pleasure of going back a second time. I had another wedding in Deadwood and decided to keep the tradition going and visited the park before and after the wedding. It was so nice revisiting and going to some of my favorite spots. This time around I brought my little road trip pup Nika. It’s been such a joy bringing her on adventures and fulfilling my dreams of a having a hiking and camping dog. I also brought my mountain bike and attempted to bike around the area a little bit, I didn’t get much accomplished biking wise with the pup along though! In between the days at the park I photographed a snowy wedding and hit up some local breweries.
Visiting these two national parks in the Dakotas gave me even more North Dakota pride and love for where I grew up and now live. I’ve never struggled with North Dakota pride, but after getting to see these landscapes and parks right in our area, made my love for the Dakotas that much greater. I would highly recommend visiting areas that are right around you and learning to love and appreciate whats in your backyard.
I wanted to go back to Theodore Roosevelt National Park with my dog this time around so I visited both the south and north units with my baby Nika! We visited the south unit in the fall and I got to mountain bike a section of the Maah Daah Hey trail for the first time ever which has been a bucket list item for awhile. We also got to see the park in the fall and it has amazing yellow leaves. We hiked all our fave trails and caught an amazing hot pink sunset at the Cottonwood campground.
The second time we went to the north unit in the spring and although we got rained out most of the trip, we managed to hit up some trails and favorite overlooks. When the rain was coming down too hard to be outside, we went to the nearby town of Watford City for a burger and shake (and yes I said we). We got very muddy, but still had a great time exploring the area since it had been a few years!