As we patiently await this winter to end it doesn’t hurt to plan for the warmer weather and get excited about this upcoming summer. And what better way to do than a road trip through some of the most scenic parts of North Dakota? This trip will take you in a complete round trip in the western part of North Dakota. It starts in Medora but you can begin at any part of the route. If you can’t get out to the western half, no worries – there will be road trips for some other regions in the state in the near future.
It runs about 9 hours and 40 minutes, plus some extra time to stop and see everything. I suggest splitting it into two days over a relaxing weekend. There are lots of places to camp along the way, so consider sleeping under the stars to make this the perfect trip. Be prepared to see some of the most scenic and gorgeous parts of North Dakota on the ultimate western ND road trip!
To get the driving directions for this trip, you can view the map
1. Medora, ND
We begin in Medora, the very touristy, picturesque town that already can fill your day with activities by itself. There's plenty to do there as far as sightseeing so set aside a lot of time for this place. It is in the heart of the ND badlands and a great introduction to the rest of the beautiful places to follow.
2. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Next up is, of course, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There are two units - the north unit and the south unit - and both are equally impressive. Buffalo and horses roam free here and the views are breathtaking. There are great camping opportunities and this'd be a great place to spend the night if you want to sleep out in nature and get the full, true experience.
3. Little Missouri National Grassland
Once you leave the park, it's time to start heading north. The route will take you through a lot of the Little Missouri National Grassland. It is massive (the largest grassland in the entire country) and beautiful, and it makes the long drive to our next stop worth it!
4. Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence
Our third stop is the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence, where the Missouri River and the Yellowstone River meet. The map will take you to the Interpretation Center for it, which has a great view of the confluence as well as some interesting history on the area.
5. Lewis & Clark State Park
After driving through Williston and on your way to Lake Sakakawea, the next stop is Lewis & Clark State Park. It's the perfect rest stop to relax and get some good family or friends time in, whether that be fishing, swimming, or just taking in the view.
6. Four Bears Memorial Bridge
On our way over the Missouri River to start our southern route back is the Four Bears Memorial Bridge near New Town, Sanish, and Four Bears Village. Such a pretty view of the river to continue our scenic route of North Dakota.
7. Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge
If you need some more lake-side time on your road trip, here is one of the next best places and our next stop - Lake Ilo. It is located in a national wildlife refuge and is a great place to see water fowl and also just a gorgeous area.
8. Enchanted Highway
As we're reaching the ends of the road trip, the best route back is through the Enchanted Highway. This is the definition of the scenic route because it is basically a giant art gallery. There are huge metal sculptures lining the road of all sorts of things - like the huge, and I mean HUGE, deer pictured here. You can drive through and enjoy them or stop off at each to take some pictures. That just screams 'road trip material' right there - you can't skip this part!
9. White Butte
And now we've reached the summit of the road trip - the highest point in North Dakota! At 3,507 feet above sea level it stands as the tallest spot in the state. You can hike to the top to say you've been there and check out the geological survey marker that's been there for over 50 years. And it actually is quite pretty - I've seen it myself from a distance but haven't hiked to the top, and the chalky butte is already quite the view. Definitely worth checking out!
Once you’ve stopped at White Butte you can head back up north a ways and then west once you hit I-94 to end up right back in Medora. There are a ton of other places like wildlife refuges, small towns, and lakes you could stop at along the way if you’d like to spend the extra time doing so, and I highly suggest it! There’s too many to put them all on one list so it is up to you where to go. Take your time and enjoy western North Dakota with all it has to offer, and if you take this trip, please share your experience in the comments!