Everyone who makes the trip to the Badlands of North Dakota have their own reason for visiting Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Yours might be different than the next but everyone will all have one thing in common, everyone comments about the beautiful sights and sounds.
Whether you’re an expert photographer with all the gear or out to capture the pics to make your Instagram followers jealous, this is your guide!
Zak Zeinert, nature photographer and National Park lover, let us share his favorite Theodore Roosevelt National Park photography locations and some little-known photographer hideouts that he enjoys just outside of Medora.
As originally published at Zak Zeinert Photography Blog
– – WIND CANYON OVERLOOK – –
Wind Canyon is the most photographed spot in the park, and with good reason. In the evening, the short footpath leads viewers to a stunning display as the sun sets over the Little Missouri River. The river makes for natural leading lines that photograph well and help guide the viewer’s eye to some of the best sunsets in the United States. I try not to shoot at the same spot too often, but I can’t help but find myself returning to Wind Canyon.
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– – COTTONWOOD CAMPGROUND – –
The 36-mile loop and numerous trails offer plenty of great sights, but don’t forget about the opportunities back at camp! On my first visit to the Medora area in 2016, I was often greeted back at camp by a bison wandering by. That same evening, I photographed wild horses on the southern end of the campground. Not to mention the great selfies you can get for your Facebook and Instagram as you gaze out upon the badlands from camp!
– – THE 36-MILE PARK LOOP – –
Many of the park’s visitors only ever see it from the safety of their vehicle along the 36-mile loop. Fortunately, there are many great photo opportunities along the whole stretch. I recommend driving the loop in the early morning or late afternoon. Not only will the warm golden hour light make your photos look stunning but the cooler temperatures will also draw the wildlife out. When you feel like getting out and stretching your legs, check out some of the incredible overlooks along the loop such as Boicourt or Scoria Point.
Boicourt Overlook provides a grand view of the park from the loop – 2016
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– – THE PETRIFIED FOREST LOOP – –
The Petrified Forest Loop has quickly become my favorite trail in the park. Inaccessible via the 36-mile park loop, to reach the trailhead one must take exit 23 off of I-94w then continue up West River Road for roughly 6.5 miles. Don’t let the bit of extra effort discourage you though, visitors to this trail are well rewarded. Besides being well maintained, the trail offers grand canyon views, peaceful sections of grassland, and of course the main attraction: petrified wood! The loop is about 10-miles long, but one only has to travel a short distance to find the fossilized remains of the ancient forest.
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– – BUCK HILL – –
Buck Hill is the highest point in the park and provides the million-dollar panoramic views of the badlands. Lone trees are scattered among the hilltop and make for great silhouette shots as well as interesting subjects against the grassy terrain. The well-defined trail winding its way down the southern slope provides an excellent backdrop for portraits while also being an interesting subject on its own.
– – THE LOWER TALKINGTON TRAIL – –
The Lower Talkington Trail will truly make you feel as if you’ve stumbled into another world. The painted hills seem to surround you as you descend into the eastern end of the park. Last time, I hiked it I found myself caught between a cranky bison and a band of wild horses. I managed to get a some great shots while I waited them out from the safety of a hilltop.
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– – THE NORTH UNIT – –
Don’t forget to visit the North Unit of the park just south of Watford City. Not only is it just as stunning, but you’ll deal with a fraction of the crowds that you get in the South Unit. While you won’t find prairie dogs or wild horses in the North Unit, you will find smooth, rolling grasslands more akin to what you’d see in Badlands National Park. The buffalo are bountiful and the overlooks just as scenic. The in-and-out road, rightfully called ‘Scenic Drive’ offers many stunning views as it winds its way through the park.
These photography secrets are just across the North Dakota border and with Mother Nature as the ultimate artist, each day could give you a new view. Plan for a few extra days and of course see what else Medora has to offer.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park truly is one-of-a-kind and is well deserving of its name. Just don’t forget to put down the camera every once in a while to take in the beautiful landscape around you.
Get a Printable Theodore Roosevelt National Park Map
Helpful Hiking Information for Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Check out more of Zak’s work: http://www.zakzeinertphotography.com/
Purchase a print seen in this blog: North Dakota Collection
Book your Photography Trip: https://medora.com/plan-your-trip/