Day Trip to North Dakota From Rapid City, South Dakota

day trip to north dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

painted canyon overlook north dakota

  • Growing up on a ranch in the North Dakota badlands forged Theodore Roosevelt’s passion for the outdoors. As president, he dedicated more than 230 million acres to national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife reserves. 
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, named in his honor by the state of North Dakota, consists of 3 units connected by the Little Missouri River: North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit, Theodore Roosevelt’s home. It is about a 1 hour drive from North Unit to the South Unit entrance.

theodore roosevelt national forest painted canyon

north dakota national park

  • The Painted Canyon Visitor Center (Exit 32) accesses the 1 mile Painted Canyon Nature Trail with great views of the badlands (pictured above). 

prairie dogs north dakota


  • The South Unit entrance in Medora (Exit 24 and 27) provides access to a 32 mile scenic loop drive, hiking trails, Prairie Dog Town, and possibly a feral horses sighting.
  • In the late 1800’s ranchers kept their branded horses on the lands of what later became Theodore Roosevelt National Park. As needed, the ranchers would round up the horses and relocate them to their ranch. When the park was fenced in during the 1950’s, 200 branded horses were removed and returned to their owners. Some escaped the round up, remained unclaimed, and continued to live in the park.

north dakota

Traveling Gingerbread Note: During our visit in July 2020, 4 miles of the scenic loop between Cottonwood Campground and Badlands Overlook was closed to vehicles due to a portion of the road collapsing. The majority of the loop was still open but required vehicles to turn around after 28 miles rather than completing the 32 mile loop.

north dakota badlands

Phat Fish Brewing

phat fish brewing

  • This massive tap room has something for everyone with axe throwing for $15 per person/hour, a pool table, arcade games, slot machines, foosball, outdoor patio with corn hole, ice cream, and a pizzeria. Phat Fish Brewing has just over 10 beers on draft and flights of 4. We recommend Pacific Passion Sour with passion fruit and mango.

Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery

fluffy fields winery and vineyard

fluffy field wine flight

  • Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery has a large tasting room with gift shop, dining room, and spacious outdoor patio. Sample 1 oz. for $1, 5 – 1 oz. for $5, or 5 – 1 oz. samples and a 5 oz. glass of wine for $10. We recommend First Date, a semi-sweet red sweetened with honey. Get Fluffy.

The Enchanted Highway

  • The Enchanted Highway is located along 102 2nd Avenue South West, Highway 21, beginning in Regent and ending in Gladstone. Each of the 7 sculptures has a parking lot to safely admire the art. All of the statues face North, but travelling South to North we still enjoyed the highway.

geese in flight sculpture

line of birds

deer crossing

  • 3 miles away is Deer Crossing in honor of North Dakota’s wildlife with a 75 foot tall buck and 50 foot tall doe.

lefore state bank

  • In the town of Lefor an arch (on the right side of the road when travelling North to South) stands in front of the Lefor State Bank vault. The bank closed during the Great Depression and was later torn down. Only the vault remains.

Grasshoppers in the Field dt

  • 12 miles from Deer Crossing is Grasshoppers in the Field complete with metal wheat. The largest grasshopper reaches a height of 40 feet while the smaller insects measure 12 feet tall. 

fishermans dream sculpture

  • 5 miles away is Fisherman’s Dream, the newest addition to the Enchanted Highway.

pheasants in a field

  • 4 miles down the road is Pheasants on the Prairie, consisting of a 1,300 lb. rooster, 12,000 lb. hen, and 3 chicks each weighing 5,000 lbs.

teddy roosevelt rides again

  • Next is a 51 foot tall statue Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again in honor of the United States National Parks.

tin family enchanted highway

  • 4 miles away is the final but original statue along the highway, Tin Family.

Traveling Gingerbread Note: This day trip requires about 8.5 hours of driving to and from Rapid City, South Dakota.

July 2020

Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

The Traveling Gingerbread is a place for us to share budget travel tips for people with full time jobs, fun facts, itineraries, and where to find the best craft beer. We have been traveling together since 2013. Living and working full-time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. We cram each adventure with activities, tours, experiences, and local breweries. We can't walk by an Irish pub without stopping in for a pint of Guinness. In 2019, we brewed our first beer and were hooked, although, we have no intentions of brewing more than small batches. We'll continue our self appointed roles of professional testers and creating craft beer trails.

4 thoughts

  1. Fun story! So glad to see you can get out in these troubling times! Elee and I did a 4 month Cruise Around the World from January to May, but we were Curtailed in March and came home in April. Can’t wait to start traveling again!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.