Since Andrew and I had three weeks to spend in North Dakota this summer, we decided to take advantage of that and be tourists for 3 days. Some of you may know that I recently bought a “Passport to Your National Parks” book that details all the different sites that are run by the National Park service and you can get your passport stamped at each location. So, visiting those sites located in North Dakota was a must for this trip.
Lucky for us we didn’t actually start this adventure from Bismarck, but rather Tolley, ND. A small farm town near the Canadian border, Tolley was Andrew’s home for the first 6 years of his life. That Sunday, we got to spend our afternoon and evening up there celebrating the church’s 100th anniversary, so that was a great time! We spent the night at Andrew’s old neighbors house and left for our adventure early the next morning.
Our first stop was Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. Fort Union is located southwest of Williston and is about as close to the North Dakota/Montana border you can get. My phone was constantly bouncing between Central and Mountain time zones. Fort Union was once one of the most important trade stations along the Missouri River. Once upon a time the river came very near the fort, but the river has since changed course and plants and trees have grown up where it used to be. If you stop in the main house, you can pick up a brochure that will help you take a self-guided tour of the fort.
After our visit to Fort Union, we took the long, construction filled, road trip to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Andrew and I had visited the South Unit with his family on our way to Glacier Park two years ago, but the North Unit was going to be a new adventure for us! People who have been to both say that the North Unit is the “better” unit and the “greener” unit. After experiencing both, I can safely say that the North Unit is definitely better for scenic views of the majestic North Dakota badlands. We also really enjoyed the Cannonballs that come out of the badlands due to erosion. While in the North Unit we drove the entirety of the Scenic Road in and back out. Along the way we stopped for two hikes. The first was the Coulee Capstone trail which gave us insight into some of the plants and animals that live in the area. At the end of the road we also took a hike out to Sperati point to have a great overlook of the badlands and the Little Missouri River. The hike was mainly through prairie to get there, but once we got to Sperati Point the views were outstanding!
After our many hikes and miles of driving that day, we made one final hour trek down to Medora, the town located at the edge of the South Unit and our destination for the night. We stayed in the Bunkhouse Motel, which may not be much to look at, but provided all the necessities we needed, and a bonus of a pool to take a nice refreshing swim in after all that hiking. Even better that we had the pool to ourselves. We also indulged in some Badlands Pizza for dinner, located in an old saloon, and it still looks the part!