Trip Guide to North Dakota's Medora Area | Midwest Living

Trip Guide to North Dakota's Medora Area

Medora makes a good base to explore the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Other things to do in the area include seeing the Burning Hills Amphitheatre’s Medora Musical and biking the Maah Daah Hey Trail.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
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Maah Daah Hey Trail
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Pitchfork Steak Fondue
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Medora Musical
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Rough Riders Hotel and Conference Center
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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 lord over Medora like a watchful father. Settled by a dashing French nobleman in 1883 and named for his wife, tiny Medora (population: 112) makes a good base to explore the national park honoring the region’s most famous resident. (The bison that drew future-president Theodore Roosevelt to hunt still roam the park, as do horses, elk and pronghorn antelope.)

On one end of town, a visitors center salutes the Mr. Bubble millionaire who rescued Medora from obscurity during the 1960s. On the other, 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. 


Bully Pulpit Golf Course Rugged buttes rise above 18 holes that conform to the wild terrain, challenging golfers and granting picturesque views.

Chateau de Mores In 1883, a French aristocrat and entrepreneur built this two-story, 26-room mansion and established the town he named for his wife, Medora. The home, open for tours, contains original furnishings and a glimpse into the town’s origins.

Dakota Cyclery Mountain Bike Adventures Outdoor enthusiasts can rent bikes and ride the badlands with these passionate cyclists. Dakota Cyclery on Facebook

Maah Daah Hey Trail Rough badlands and rolling prairies await bikers, 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.

Medora Musical Now in its 52nd year, the show brings singing, dancing and boot-scootin’ tunes to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. Join the celebration of Theodore Roosevelt and the American West.

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.

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.

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. It tends to be easier to see herds of bison on the scenic drive through the North Unit (66 miles away).

Western Edge Books, Artwork, Music The frontier-focused bookstore stocks Western stories on outlaws, cowboys, women of the West and more.


The Brew In Dickinson, 40 minutes east of Medora, heavenly coffee drips in a 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 and cheddar).

Cowboy Cafe A cozy, no-frills diner promises “home cooking at its best.” Slide into a wooden booth for a hot beef sandwich smothered in gravy and a side of buttery mashed potatoes. (701) 623-4343

Pitchfork Steak Fondue Cowboys plunge pitchforks of steaks into 400-degree oil where they sizzle to doneness. Diners add potatoes, beans, slaw and garlic toast for a country feast that was featured on The Food Network.

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 the Rough Riders Hotel restaurant, bartenders at TR’s Tavern sling local beers and craft cocktails.


Eagle Ridge Lodge Gas fireplaces and bed quilts cozy up guest rooms. Hearty breakfasts come with each stay; buffet-style steak dinners are also available.

Rough Riders Hotel and Conference Center Eight rooms original to the 1884 hotel remain—including Room 501, with badlands views—but the 68 tower rooms are just as classy with oak and red velvet furniture.

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