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North Dakota: Explore the region that thrilled Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt said that he “never would have been president” if it had not been for his experiences in North Dakota. Explore the landscape that shaped his character and inspired him to preserve and protect our great country’s national treasures.

Drive 328.5 miles, 6 hours, 43 minutes

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Medora/Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Starting Point

Teddy Roosevelt’s special relationship with the Badlands is on full display in the National Park that bears his name. Start by driving the scenic 36-mile paved loop, which includes interpretive signs on geologic formations, wildlife and history. Backcountry hikes and wildlife sightings—think bald eagles and bison—are plentiful in the area, especially if you time your trip for the early morning or sunset hours. Back in town, catch the Medora Musical, a famously entertaining stage show that celebrates frontier life in song and dance and is performed in the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, a state-of-the-art outdoor venue. Swing your clubs at the Bully Pulpit Golf Course, a highly ranked course that winds through the striking landscape.

2. Fort Union Trading Post

129.9 miles, 2 hours, 27 minutes

Once the most important fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River, the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site now deals in history. In the mid-19th century, Native Americans and frontiersmen traded all manner of goods at the outpost; some of those items are on display for visitors. The Visitor’s Center offers guided tours, and experts field questions about the site’s importance to American history. The post’s location on the banks of the Missouri River at the Montana-North Dakota border is entrancing.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. Minot

149.1 miles, 3 hours, 11 minutes

As an early cross-country railroad stop, Minot sprang up nearly overnight, and its allure to travelers has kept growing ever since. Minot is the home of the North Dakota State Fair, where each July, A-list concerts, rodeo events and a massive carnival rock the fairgrounds. On the same site each October, the Nørsk Hostfest celebrates Scandinavian culture with authentic food, dress, awards and attractions—it’s a truly unique event that the whole family will enjoy.

4. Audubon National Wildlife Refuge

49.5 miles, 1 hour, 5 minutes

A birder’s paradise, the ANWR plays host to dramatic migratory scenes year after year. From the endangered whooping cranes to sparrows and waterfowl, some of the most elusive birds in the world can be seen in the shallow wetlands of the park. The 8-mile scenic drive that begins at the visitor center and winds along the shores of Lake Audubon is a great way to get acquainted with the environment. For an even more intimate approach, try the Prairie Nature Trail—a 1-mile, self-guided hike that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles. The early morning wildlife sightings here are among the best in the refuge.