Past the bales of hay reaching the horizon along Interstate-94 stands moonlike Painted Canyon, the first glimpse of the badlands. Here in western North Dakota, endless buttes loom over Medora like watchful guardians.
On one end of town, a visitors center salutes the Mr. Bubble millionaire who rescued Medora from obscurity during the 1960s. Nearby, guests at the 1884 Rough Riders Hotel curl up in comfy chairs and read up on Roosevelt history with books borrowed from the hotel library. At the other end of town, across the Little Missouri River, the Burning Hills Amphitheatre’s Medora Musical entertains audiences with a mix of country tunes, square dancing, Theodore Roosevelt history and Scripture.
But all of that falls second to the landscape. The stark beauty of the badlands—steep, multicolor canyon walls and wide vistas under a clear blue bowl of North Dakota sky—inspires visitors to follow Roosevelt’s footsteps, whether by bike, foot, car or horse.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Bully Pulpit Golf Course Rugged buttes rise above 18 holes that conform to the wild terrain, challenging golfers and granting picturesque views. medora.com/do
Chateau de Mores In 1883, a French aristocrat and entrepreneur built a two-story, 26-room mansion and established the town he named for his wife, Medora. Tours of the home give a glimpse into the town’s origins. Half-hour stagecoach rides along the Little Missouri River leave from the chateau's interpretive center. history.nd.gov
Dakota Cyclery Mountain Bike Adventures Outdoor enthusiasts can rent bikes and ride through the badlands with these passionate cyclists. A shuttle service moves camping gear and coolers for those who want to do overnighters. Dakota Cyclery on Facebook
Maah Daah Hey Trail Rough badlands and rolling prairies await cyclists, horseback riders and hikers along these 144 miles, stretching between two U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and touching the North and South units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. parkrec.nd.gov
Maah Daah Hey Trail
Medora Musical For more than 50 years, this show has brought singing, dancing and boot-scootin’ tunes to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. Join the celebration of Theodore Roosevelt and the American West. For an additional charge, take a behind-the-scenes tour. medora.com
North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame The tribute to Native Americans, ranchers and rodeo riders features exhibits such as clothing worn by cowboys and Native Americans, ornate saddles, and fine art celebrating cowboy culture. northdakotacowboy.com
Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway Quaint towns and quirky sites along the 108-mile route (from Mandan to Dickinson, 36 miles east of Medora) offer reasons to skip the interstate and stick to Old Highway 10. oldredoldten.com
A Teddy Roosevelt Salute to Medora Joe Wiegand—the voice of Roosevelt at the long-running Medora Musical—delivers a humorous and lively hour-long show, bringing to life the 26th president as a husband, father and leader. teddyrooseveltshow.com
Theodore Roosevelt National Park Known for its 36-mile loop that takes in painted canyons and grasslands, the busy South Unit also has a museum and Roosevelt’s first ranch cabin. Visitors may find it easier to spot herds of bison on the scenic drive through the North Unit (66 miles away). nps.gov/thro
Western Edge Books, Artwork, Music The frontier-focused bookstore stocks Western stories on outlaws, cowboys, women of the West and natural history. westernedgebooks.com
The Brew In Dickinson, 40 minutes east of Medora, heavenly coffee drips in an 1887 church-turned-cafe with booths made from original pews. Locally inspired sandwiches include the Medora (avocado, pepper Jack, sprouts and black beans) and The Cowboy (smoked ham or bacon, scrambled eggs, onions, and cheddar). thebrew.org
Cowboy Cafe A cozy, no-frills Medora diner with dozens of cowboy photos on the walls promises “home cooking at its best.” Slide into a wooden booth for a hot roast beef sandwich smothered in gravy and a side of buttery mashed potatoes. Cowboy Cafe on Facebook
Pitchfork Steak Fondue Cowboys plunge pitchforks of steaks into 400-degree oil, where they sizzle to doneness. Medora diners add potatoes, beans, slaw and garlic toast for a country feast that was featured on Food Network. medora.com/eat
Pitchfork Steak Fondue
Theodore’s Dining Room Diners slice into walleye, bison and other entrees reminiscent of the American West in a dining room warmed by a fire crackling under a bronze bust of Teddy Roosevelt. In this Rough Riders Hotel restaurant in Medora, bartenders at TR’s Tavern sling local beers. medora.com
Eagle Ridge Lodge Gas fireplaces and bed quilts cozy up guest rooms, and a great room with floor-to- ceiling windows looks out on the badlands. Hearty breakfasts come with each stay; buffet-style steak dinners are also available. eagleridgelodge.com
Rough Riders Hotel and Conference Center Eight rooms original to the 1884 hotel remain, but the 68 tower rooms are just as classy with oak and red-velvet furniture. medora.com/stay
Rough Riders Hotel and Conference Center
For more information: medora.com