Snapshot Sunday Drive

A Sunday drive through the Badlands is better than you might think. Like that image above. Read on.  It’s #1 on our top 5 Sunday Afternoon Road Trip ideas for today.


#4 National Park Scenic Drive

Chances are that on a Sunday Drive you’ll share the road with more than just other vehicles when you creep through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There’s a reason the speed limits are marked so slow.  You never know when you might come up on one of these kings of the road. If you have time for only one of the two bison-populated units, take the south unit. We’ve found more opportunities to watch bison amble down the road in the south unit

The stars have the right-of-way in both the north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park


The north unit is attractive for short drives. There are a couple places where the blacktop is removed because of land slides.  But the gravel is passable. It’s only for a few yards.  On a fall day when the colors are muted, even the evergreens stand in contrast to the landscape.

Even a vintage GMC pickup takes a road trip swing through the TR National Park.


#3 Forest Service Roads

Sample the interior of the Badlands that few people see. Get out your U.S. Forest Service map of the two ranger districts, Medora and McKenzie County. If your vehicle has good tires and high clearance, you’ll find rarely used roads such as this one (see below) off of Black Tail road and Magpie Road.  It leads near the Maah Daah Hey Trail where Brian Kittelson just completed a 5-day journey through the Badlands.  You can sample a piece or two of his adventure when you find a forest service road like this.

Even roads marked on the map are far less passable than most vehicles can safely travel. At the end of winter, a Forest Service Road gets close to the Maah Daah Hey Trail and Devils Pass.  But stop at the muddy parts.


#2 Road to the Ice Caves

Forest Service roads such as the Scairt Woman road to the Ice Caves can get very muddy and impassable when it rains much — or when the snow melts. Some roads such as this are maintained by local ranchers or by oil crews.  So, be prepared to straddle the ruts on the way to the Ice Caves parking lot.  Whenever the weather cooperates, many families take a Sunday Drive on this road to the parking lot and then hike over the hill to the Ice Caves.

Straddle the ruts on Scairt Woman Road when you head to the Ice Caves.


#1 Custer Trail Auto Tour

robin reynolds dakota clayworks

A popular road trip destination on the way to the Badlands. See how to turn Badlands clay into beautiful pottery.
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I can’t believe I crisscrossed the Badlands for decades before I discovered this well-marked and well-maintained road that the state promotes. The story is here how we drank in our first visits to The Custer Trail Auto Tour and went back often.

I had no idea this country south of the Interstate was so attractive for a Sunday drive.  And of course, the bonus is, I got to see Initial Rock where Custer’s troops carved their initials in the soft rock.  The road also leads past the Snow Camp where the 7th Cavalry hunkered down for a miserable May/June snow storm.  They were not prepared for a spring snow storm — but you can be if you watch the weather before you leave. 

Our top recommended road through the Badlands is the Custer Trail Auto Tour from south from Medora or from Belfield. The two different loops take you into Badlands regions that few people ever see.


Above the Greens in the North Dakota Badlands

Custer lead his troops through this area on his historic, fateful march to the Little Big Horn in 1876. Today the land looks much the same as it did then, but the addition of modern conveniences and recreational opportunities has slightly changed the landscape.


Bonus: One day. Three Badlands. Two states

Road trips are one of our favorite things to do. For example, did you know you can do an Interstate Road Trip to sample three different Badlands in two states in One day?  From the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, to Makoshika State Park at Glendive and to the Terry Badlands in Terry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get gas for a Sunday Drive in the Badlands?

Good question.  Convenience stores are few and far between. So gas up in Dickinson, Belfield, Killdeer or Watford City.

Where can I eat if we take a Sunday Drive in the Badlands

If the weather is warm enough for you, you’ll find lots of places for tail gate picnics.  Or excellent eating can be found in Belfield, Dickinson, Killdeer, and Watford City.

Do I need four-wheel-drive to explore the interior roads of the Badlands?

No, but you will have to stay off of two-track trails. And if it is muddy or snowy, you should avoid leaving the main roads.

Badlands. Good Times. In Watford City, North Dakota

Badlands. Good Times. In Watford City, North Dakota