Top Ten National Parks for Wildlife Viewing

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
By Nicole Daro
  |  Gorp.com
Where the buffalo roam&
Where the buffalo roam

Best for: Bison, wild horses, deer, and elk.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the best places in the country to see the great bison that were once a central fixture of life in the Great Plains. You are almost guaranteed a sighting of these humongous animals, who roam freely throughout the park. GORP users have consistently given the park high ratings for wildlife viewing and scenery. Some even claim that North Dakota's Badlands compete with those of South Dakota for beauty. Another bonus? Theodore Roosevelt receives far fewer visitors than many other national parks. Backcountry hikers will be rewarded with peace and solitude.

Bison are the largest mammals in North America. A herd of 500 to 700 of these 2,000-pound creatures roam in the North and South Units of the park amid the visually stunning maze of buttes and canyons that make up North Dakota's badlands. A 36-mile scenic drive through the South Unit brings you to some wildlife watching spots, as well as to trailheads for hikes into the heart of the park, where you're bound to see even more animals. You can often catch a glimpse of wild horses from Painted Canyon Overlook. A short walk from the road takes you to Buck Hill, where elk are most often seen in the morning and evening feeding on grass. In the North Unit, the Buckhorn Trail takes you through a fascinating prairie dog town, made up of lots of interconnected tunnels where prairie-dog communities thrive.

The 96-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail passes through the North and South units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and takes you deep into the rolling prairie. Watch for mule deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, bison, and wild horses. Another way to get into the park's remote areas is by canoe up the Little Missouri River. A four-day trip from the South Unit to the North is a fabulous way to experience the beauty and solitude of the park.


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