SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA
We first visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park last summer when we briefly stopped at the highway visitor center on our way home from seeing the eclipse in Wyoming. Right away we were sorry we did not have more time to stay, but we were excited by the idea of returning. So when we began planning our epic summer road trip this year, we knew we wanted to make this park a priority.
It was the last stop on our seven-week road trip, but far from the least. It is comprised of three areas, linked by the Little Missouri River and Theodore Roosevelt’s love of this land. We began our trip in the South Unit, and later made our way to the North Unit where we spent most of our time. The road to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit is not RV-friendly, so we left that for another trip.
We were, however, surprised by the number of other visitors. When planning, we were told by park rangers that the North Unit campground was never full. However, it was when we arrived! Luckily there are several other campgrounds near the North Unit, so we were fine. Even so, the park was hardly what I’d call crowded, particularly when compared to all the other parks we had visited. It was refreshing to find a parking spot at every pull off, and to hike and see only two other groups.
Some park Visitor’s Centers are so crowded that you just can’t wait to grab a map and get out of there. At the South Unit, which has the larger Visitor’s Center, we enjoyed talking to the rangers. One told us her favorite hike in the whole park was Caprock Coulee in the North Unit. The following day we headed out on this 4.2 mile hike - the longest my six-year-old ever did without getting carried at some point! It was such a varied trail, beginning in a grassland area that led to stone formations, including cannonball concretions, spherical stone structure that withstand erosion more than the surrounding rock. Then we hiked uphill through dense forests. We were surprised to see bison tracks here, having never imagined a bison pushing through thick brush along a narrow trail. Then we climbed up to where we could see the tops of the hills (as seen in the first image in this post). The view was beautiful, and we walked past a solo bison who was out on the bluff, seeming to admiring the scenery as well.
The trail then crossed the road, and we continued through scenery that was unlike anything we had previously hiked through. It was much drier here, and in places we were walking on rocks, only able to follow the path by the markers. The views over here were equally as stunning, especially when we were looking down at the Little Missouri River.
We finished our hike and took the rest of the scenic drive through the North Unit. We saw an abundance of wildlife - more bison, deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs and wild horses. As we reached the far end, it was clear a storm was rolling in, and we drove back to our campsite in the rain - the only rain we encountered in seven weeks on the road.