When it comes to local travel destinations, the country's south and southwest are the most favored. It makes sense. Who wouldn't want to bask in the sun on a beach in California or Florida?
Usually, states like North Dakota don't create a buzz among travelers. The state, however, receives around 22 million visitors annually, which has created a tourism industry worth over $2.5 billion.
The Peace Garden State certainly has a lot to offer. Its serene landscapes, marked by prairie, rolling hills, and water bodies, make it one of the top, under-the-radar destinations for adventure travelers.
Let's find out why North Dakota has become so popular with adventure lovers.
1. North Dakota Badlands
North Dakota has one of the most iconic landforms in the country, known as The Badlands. It's an area southwest of the state marked by stunning rock formations that look like mini canyons.
There are different access points to the 390-plus square miles of scenic rock formations, but the Theodore Roosevelt National Park has the best vantage point.
If you're looking for a hotspot of adventure travelers in North Dakota, this is it, as it attracts nearly half a million visitors yearly.
2. Maah Daah Hey Trail
Cutting through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a 144-mile single-track scenic trail, a magnet for adventure lovers looking to explore the prairie wilderness of North Dakota.
While the trail is considered a top destination for mountain bikers, it's also a favorite for hikers and horseback riders. The sprawling landscape with jagged peaks and steep inclines is rewarding for hikers just as much as the even prairie segments are to riders.
Despite your preferred activity, you will love everything about the trail if you're an adventurous soul. The captivating scenery in the badlands is unforgettable.
Views of the wildlife, the hilly terrain, and the Little Missouri River are everything a camper would want.
3. Little Missouri State Park
While the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is more popular, it is rivaled by the nearby Little Missouri State Park, which is fast becoming one of the top attractions in the state.
The park's section of the badlands has some of the wildest and most rugged terrain. As such, you can only explore the park on foot or horseback. The difficulty, coupled with the picturesque landscape, makes it a hiker's paradise.
The park has plenty of wildlife as well. You will appreciate spotting coyotes, deer, and many bird species.
The perfect meld of the greenery, rock formations, and prairie will surely emphasize the wilderness experience as you explore the park.
At night, you can retreat to the rustic cabins of Eastview Campground. After a long day, there's nothing like camping and a bottle of wine. If it were California, you could roll and enjoy your blunt. But since weed is only legal for medical use in ND, access requires certification by medical marijuana doctors in North Dakota.
Medora is a town in the badlands hemmed in by the stunning wilderness of the Dakota Prairie Grassland and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
For adventure lovers, taking a break from the parks and immersing themselves in Medora's Old West charm is absolutely rewarding. The cuisine, stagecoach rides, and popular stable rides can feel like you've stepped back in time.
5. Red River Zoo
If you're visiting Fargo, one of the best ways to spend a fun day with family is to explore the Red River Zoo.
The zoo is home to plenty of animals and some rare cold-climate species. Endangered animals like the Bactrian Camel and Red Panda are worth seeing up close.
As a family-friendly zoo, you should have a good time with children who will definitely enjoy rides in the antique Diederich Family Carousel.
6. Pembina Gorge
Further north, west of the I-29 and Walhalla is Pembina Gorge. The steep, winding river valley is nestled in a massive expanse of woodland with segments of boreal forest and grassland.
Pembina Gorge is a must-visit destination for adventure travelers looking for a landscape that contrasts sharply with the badlands. The massive swath of temperate forest offers a different wilderness experience with many animal and plant species.
There are plenty of outdoor activities at Pembina Gorge, including viewing wildlife, hiking, canoeing, skiing, and horseback riding.
North Dakota is fast becoming a top destination for adventure travelers searching for a memorable experience. The wildlife, breathtaking prairie, and historical landmarks make the Peace Garden State hard to dismiss.