Grand Canyon of North Dakota

The Grand Canyon of North Dakota is located at Exit 34 on I-94 in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This makes it one of the most accessible and most visited of all the states grand canyons.  The Grand Canyon of North Dakota is named The Painted Canyon and it is a special part of the National Park because it is the only part you can access without charge.  You get off at the exit and can walk along the overlook or take a trail down into the canyon.

Tom and I have stopped at the Painted Canyon several times.  We visited in 2013 and did some hiking in the canyon.  We also stopped two days in a row during a recent visit to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  The first day was too hazy to get good pictures so we stopped again the next day.  The parking lot and the overlook are always full of people, but once you head down the trail into the canyon, the crowds thin out.

There is a lovely one mile loop nature trail down into and around some areas of the Grand Canyon of North Dakota.  The Painted Canyon Trail is easy once you get to the bottom of the canyon.  Hiking back up is a little harder, but the elevation change is only 262 feet, so it is doable for most people.  When you get into the canyon, you can wander for miles following use trails made by other wanderers.  Bison are also good at making false trails for people to follow, so it is possible to be led astray.  There are some confusing intersections on the nature trail, so it is important to be aware while hiking and keep an eye on the general direction of the overlook.

The twists and turns are well worth the effort.  Walking among the colorful hills and seeing the topography up close is very satisfying.  The lack of other people jockeying for the position for the best selfie is another reason to take the hike into the canyon.  You can spend as long as you want hiking in this area of the park or you can take the mile loop and climb back out again.  Most people never move beyond the overlook.

There is a small Visitors Center and restrooms at the overlook.  There are also some vending machines, but you have to drive to Medora to stay overnight or get a meal.  Consequently, most people don’t stay very long at the Painted Canyon.

The Grand Canyon of North Dakota is an easy and pleasant stop if you are traveling on I-94 across the northern portion of the United States.