Fall advantages


I stopped on the trail and the bull snake stopped, too. We took a few photos. He moved on. We moved on.

Some of the advantages of exploring the Badlands in the fall include no mosquitoes, no ticks and few people. However, that does not mean all wildlife is gone.bull snake in autumn grass



On the sunny slope of a south-facing hill, a bull snake slithered past us.  This four-foot long predator was out looking for a meal — mice, gophers, other rodents.  




He stopped long enough to let us get a good glimpse of him.

Some snakes have hovered near visitors for centuries, sculpted in the rocks.





Fall Colors

The Badlands turn yellow in the fall. Whether you follow East River or West River Road, head to Elkhorn Ranch, or explore other regions, you’ll see lots of yellow. Click here for 5 places we recommend.

The bull snake’s colors are not too different from the landscape in the fall.  The area is covered with golds and yellows.  On a bright sunny day, the contours and cuts of the Badlands are more evident than on many other days in the year.


Hiking in the fall

The temperatures are cool in the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park south of Watford City. That means, you don’t get as worn out and beat down as when it is hot. If you are looking for a soul-satisfying stroll through the open and natural settings of the Badlands, fall is a good time to do it.  

The surface is dry and solid, so you’re not slip sliding on the slanted surfaces.

Fall colors are a warm golden yellow.

Cottonwoods in the fall

Early in the season, aspens lose their leaves. Some of the last to go are the yellows of cottonwoods along the Little Missouri River.

Little Missouri River through the golden trees along the Little Missouri River in fall

Cottonwood trees hold on to their last leaves along the banks of the Little Missouri River at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Deep Cuts of the North Unit

The North Dakota Badlands get deeper and more intense the further north you go.  In the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the hills and valleys are easy.

In the north unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Watford City, the Little Missouri River runs much deeper in the landscape. The hills are more rugged and the terrain is jagged. 

Deep gorges of the North Dakota Badlands in the fall at Theodore Roosevelt National park autumn

Deep valleys in the Badlands at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park are open for hiking and exploring year round.

This is the last stop before the most intense region of the North Dakota Badlands, the Little Missouri State Park.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Badlands open in the fall?
Yes they are.  All three units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park are open year round (South Unit, Elkhorn Ranch Unit, and North Unit).  Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management maps will also show other public ground where you can explore, including the Maah Daah Hey trail from Watford City to near Amidon and the Burning Coal Vein. There are at least five good places to see the Badlands in the fall.

Is it cold in the Badlands in the fall?
It can get cold in the evening. Once the sun gets low, the temperatures drop 10 to 15 degrees from the heat of the day.  Keep an eye on the time of day because sunset comes as early as 6 p.m. or earlier.

What are the dangers in the Badlands in the fall? 
One a warm afternoon, snakes like to bake in the sun. Rattlesnakes are plentiful and can strike an unaware hiker. Bull snakes are not harmful.  They try to get a way from people as they search for food such as mice and gophers.

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