Theodore Roosevelt and the Maah Daah Hey

It’s a little out of the way compared to other western national parks, but we highly recommend a trip to Medora, North Dakota to explore the town, its history, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). We spent six days in Medora and loved every minute. The Maah Daah Hey Trail Runs brought us here to begin with but the scenery, the park, and Teddy Roosevelt’s story kept us enthralled.

To continue Steve’s pursuit of running a marathon in all 50 states, we made the Maah Daah Hey (MDH) Trail marathon our first priority.  The MDH trail runs a total of 144 miles from the north unit through the south unit of TRNP. The trail markers for the MDH is a turtle, which symbolizes patience, determination, and steadfastness, all of which are required when you run on this trail.

Steve ran the 27 mile race fast enough to win his age group. Yep, he beat all the other guys aged 50-59! I ran the 10K, which was closer to seven miles, through the beautiful and rugged Badlands. The race itself was enough of a draw but there was so much more!

TRNP, the only national park named after a U.S. president, was established to honor his contribution to conservation, having preserved and protected an estimated 230 million acres of land including 18 national monuments, five national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of federal reserves. As national park geeks, we really like Teddy!

The park itself includes three units covering over 70 miles. Roosevelt ranched in this area in the 1880s and artifacts from his time are on display at the visitor center, including rifles and ranch clothing. We immersed ourselves in all things Teddy while we were here and enjoyed seeing his original cabin and the land he loved. 

In the park itself we drove the South Unit’s 36-mile scenic drive and took in the park’s numerous prairie dog towns, numerous bison, and the park’s herd of wild horses. In the North Unit, we took the 14-mile scenic drive and learned about the unique rock formations called cannonball concretions, created by erosional forces. The badlands are rugged, desolate, and yet, beautiful in many ways. 

The town of Medora is a living tribute to our 26th president. In fact, much of the neat town and its attractions are run by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. We attended two afternoon shows that paid tribute to T.R. and taught us about his impact on Medora. He came here to find solace after the death of his first wife and his mother on the same day. His ranching days here were short-lived, but his love of North Dakota endured. 

The Medora Gospel Brunch is also worth checking out when you visit Medora. In fact, all of the entertainment in town was top-notch. High quality singers and musicians, polished re-enacters, and New York-level productions. We were really impressed.

The star of the Medora entertainment scene is the Medora Musical which has been running since 1965. Set in a striking outdoor amphitheater with sweeping views of the badlands, the musical pays tribute to Medora’s history and the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.

With a mix of classic country music and original tunes, the company sings, dances, and rides with high energy for a full two hours. In our second row seats, we had a great view of the action.  The Medora Musical is a not-to-miss event in Medora.

Of course we went back out on the Maah Daah Hey trail a bit on our bikes and just enjoyed being in this unique place. Beautiful views, a well-groomed trail, and sunshine always make for a good day.

We hope to return in 2025 once the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is opened. 

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