Wind Canyon Trail Loop

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Trip Date: Sunday, September 16th, 2018
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 11th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.4 miles roundtrip
Time 20 minutes
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons Spring, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly No
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Almost everyone who visits Theodore Roosevelt National Park drives the scenic loop around the park, so why not stop at the convenient but beautiful Wind Canyon Trail along the way? In less than half a mile, you will see a wind-sculpted canyon, badlands rock formations, and the best view of the Little Missouri River in the South Unit of the park. With so much epic scenery in such a short distance, it would be silly not to stop here!

You can do the loop in either direction, just start the trail at whichever end is closest to your parking spot. I did the trail in a clockwise direction, so I will describe it as such. The trail leads to the edge of Wind Canyon, as pictured below. Unlike the formations in the rest of the park where water erosion sculpted the badlands, this canyon is the result of wind, something you probably became familiar with during your journey across North Dakota to reach this park.

The hike's namesake: Wind Canyon

The hike's namesake: Wind Canyon

The trail continues alongside the canyon's wall, and soon you'll have views of the Little Missouri River on your left side, as pictured below. You can tell this is a slow moving river because of the winding curves. Despite its slow speed, you can also observe how this river helped to carve the beautiful badlands formations you see in the distance.
Looking south to where the badlands flatten along the Little Missouri River

Looking south to where the badlands flatten along the Little Missouri River

You'll start a gentle climb uphill, then you'll reach what seems like a trail intersection. Stay left here unless you want to head back to the car and miss the best part of the hike! The ascent continues until you reach an overlook with the fabulous view of the Little Missouri River pictured below -- the Park Service even asserts this is the best view of the river in the entire South Unit of the park in its description of the hike (I believe it).
The Little Missouri River as seen looking west from the trail

The Little Missouri River as seen looking west from the trail

From the overlook, the trail loops back downhill to the parking lot. Even though this hike should only take you 20 minutes, amazing scenery surrounds you throughout. I highly recommend this as one of the stops you make along the scenic drive in the park. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are prohibited on all trails in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This hike is excellent for all ages and is quite enjoyable despite its shortness. Spring and fall are the two best seasons to visit since summer heat can be brutal on this shadeless trail and winter can cause dangerous icy conditions. This is a popular stop along the scenic drive, so expect to see plenty of people no matter when you go.

Directions

From Interstate 94, take the exit for Medora (different depending on which direction you are coming from). Continue through the town and turn to enter Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Follow the main park road, then turn left further down the road from the campground. Continue on the scenic drive until you reach the turnout on the left side of the road for Wind Canyon.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Entrance to the park requires paying the $30 vehicle entrance fee valid for 7 days, except on designated fee free days. Annual passes for Theodore Roosevelt National Park are also available at $55. Interagency annual passes are available for $80 with discounts for seniors, military, and those with disabilities. Visit the Theodore Roosevelt National Park webpage about fees for more detailed information. There are no facilities available near the lot.

External Links

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