Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Badlands Bison Loop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

On this short overnight into a remote corner of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you’ll see a lot more than wildlife.


Lock Icon

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

All Access
$0.28 / day*

  • A $500 value with everything in the Print + Digital Plan plus 25+ benefits including:
  • Member-only content from every title in the Outside network like Outside, SKI, Climbing, and more
  • Try out best-in-class outdoor gear and apparel for free before you buy
  • Gaia GPS Premium with hundreds of maps and global trail recommendations, a $39.99 value
  • Online skills and fitness courses
  • Coming Soon: Premium access to Outside TV and 1,000+ hours of exclusive shows
Join Outside+
Backpacker

Print + Digital
Special Price
$0.07 / day*

  • Annual subscription to Backpacker magazine
  • Access to all member-exclusive content and gear reviews on Backpacker.com
  • Ad-free access to Backpacker.com
Join Backpacker

*Outside memberships are billed annually. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

The trail sign—just a rectangular wooden post—is leaning at a 15 degree angle, the splinters along its length jammed full of clumps of brown hair in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I look up, scanning over the grassy plateau for the back-scratching culprit. The ranger told me that by spending a night in this remote section of the southern unit of the National Park I was as likely as anywhere to see some bison.

Having spent my entire life back East, I was immediately on board. But so far I’ve had no luck. Instead, I head off-trail to the edge of the plateau. I spend the night watching the sunset on one side while the badland maze to the east dips into the shade, accentuating every strange angle and hiding the bottoms of the canyons. Not a bad compromise. It isn’t until I’m on my way out the next day, less than 2 miles from the trailhead, that I’m stopped in my tracks by the bison that I came here for, 50 yards off the trail. Just in time. 

Turn-By-Turn

  1. From the trailhead at the end of road 7305, follow Petrified Forest Trail .7 mile through open brush to the Petrified Forest, where the trail splits into a North and South Petrified Forest Trail. 
  2. Follow South Petrified Forest Trail across a broad plateau, passing Line Tree Trail at mile 3.2 and reach Maah Daah Hey Trail at mile 4.3. 
  3. Cross the Maah Daah Hey and head east-southeast overland to a peninsula on the mesa at mile 4.6, looking east over the badlands as they drop to the Little Missouri River. Camp here. 
  4. The next day, retrace your steps back to the trailhead, finishing at just over 9 miles. 

Trip Planner

Permit Required; free at South Unit Visitor Center Contact Park Office GPX Badlands Bison

Trip Stats

Overall: 3.5/5

Difficulty: 2/5

Duration: 2 days