Nothing will stop your heart like the sight of a full-grown bison heading toward you. Granted, I had come to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to savor the badlands moonscape and watch the park's wildlife. I just didn't expect a view so up-close.
Your best wildlife-viewing trail is the Petrified Forest Loop in the South Unit. The 14.5-mile trip normally begins with a ford of the Little Missouri River, but use the longer approach via the Maah Daah Hey Trail during high water. The bison, prairie dogs, coyotes, pronghorn, and elk love the mixture of grasslands and scrubby clusters of cedar. It's America's own Serengeti.
The park is 40 miles west of Dickinson on I-94. Follow the Park Scenic Road for 6.8 miles to the trailhead.
Exploring the Black Hills and Badlands, by Hiram Rogers (Johnson Books,
Roosevelt National Park,
(701) 623-4466; www.nps.gov/thro.