Visit This Under-The-Radar National Park For Your Next Family Vacation

When you're looking for a vacation experience to enjoy alongside the entire family, heading to one of America's many national parks is often an appealing choice. The National Park Service Visitation Report offers up proof of growing national park appeal by pointing to 312 million visits across the country in 2022. While there are 429 parks listed in the National Park System, these numbers merely reflect visits across records that are kept at 395 of those destinations.

Unfortunately, an impressive rise in the number of visitors to national parks annually also makes some of the big-name parks far less accessible. This is especially evident during peak travel seasons when crowds surge within national park parameters. National parks like Zion, Arches, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, and Yellowstone all sound wonderfully appealing to visitors for good reason. However, the reality of visiting when there are droves of others to contend with who have the exact same idea can be complicated and frustrating.

If you want to make the very most of your next family vacation without the added stress of crowds, it's worth your time to consider more under-the-radar national parks. Among those that tend to get overlooked but definitely shouldn't is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This beautiful national park is a pristine place to spend time with your family. It's far less frequented than other parks and refreshingly appealing for that very same reason.

A national park packed with geological history

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in scenic Medora, North Dakota. It's a great place for a family getaway thanks to its combination of stunning views, tranquility, and access to outdoor recreation for all ages. The park sits within the Badlands region and sprawls across 70,446 acres of terrain. For guests, this means there's no shortage of options for new discoveries.

Long before it became a designated national park in 1947, the land Theodore Roosevelt National Park now occupies was dominated by swampy wetlands, and then ash from volcanic eruptions over centuries filled those swamps with sediment. The ice age and subsequent glacial melts left stunning rock formations in their wake which today make up the Badlands region. Opportunities to view these incredible geological features during a visit make time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park as educational as it is breathtaking for families.

When you visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you'll have options to explore three distinct sections offering unique experiences: the North Unit, the South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch. While there's certainly a lot to see and discover across these sections and wilderness areas, visitors can feel free to take their time and savor the experience without having to worry about missing out due to crowds. As opposed to destinations like Yellowstone National Park which Statista reported as welcoming over 3 million visitors in 2022, Theodore Roosevelt National Park welcomes just 600,000 people annually according to the National Park Service.

Fun activities await for visitors of all ages

Families that visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park will find a variety of options for fun and adventure upon arrival. This destination hosts a maze of trails for avid hikers and bikers to explore. Convenient access to the Little Missouri River also means guests can take advantage of kayaking and canoeing excursions.

Those looking to dig deeper into the area's history will find stopping by the Maltese Cross Cabin could be the highlight of their experience. This well-preserved cabin belonged to Theodore Roosevelt and housed him during his first venture into the Dakota territory. There are also opportunities to explore his Elkhorn Ranch during a visit.

If a scenic national park drive is more your style, you can easily access a 48-mile route that meanders through the park's South Unit. Those who are focusing their time in the North Unit will want to consider exploring the 28-mile scenic route instead. The park also hosts horseback riding trails for guests to enjoy as well as ranger-led hikes for a more in-depth and guided approach to exploring the terrain.

Wildlife-watching enthusiasts will find their fill of opportunities at Theodore Roosevelt National Park too. The diverse native grasses provide a prime ecosystem for everything from bison, elk, feral horses, and whitetail deer to thrive. Smaller mammals like prairie dogs can also be observed throughout the park. These opportunities make it well worth your time to pack binoculars when making this park your vacation destination.