Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

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R2D2
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:11 pm

DW and I are thinking of visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park in August. We both like strenuous hiking and nice scenery, and we could probably be talked into doing some kayaking/canoing.

Is TRNP a good place for this? Are there long hikes to do or are they all short?

And any general opinions of TRNP out there?

We were also considering tacking on Badlands NP to the trip. It's a long drive (almost 5 hours) so we don't want to add that on if it's similar to what we'd see at TRNP.

Any advice on this would be appreciated. We are national park newbies.

Edit: A lot of the people on this thread have suggested that I consider the parks in South Dakota (Badlands, Wind Cave) instead. I'm open to hearing about that as well. I changed the subject to reflect this.
Last edited by R2D2 on Fri Jul 05, 2019 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Dottie57
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Dottie57 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:46 pm

It looks like the badlands to me, but I haven’t been to either,

Visitor info for TRNP - suggested by Wikipedia.com.

https://en.m.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Theodo ... k#Q1137669

wanderer
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by wanderer » Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:57 pm

TRNP (North Dakota) has the Maah Daah Hey Trail 96 mile point-point trail. Can be section hiked. A lot of open grassland between the "badlands", so lots of sun and flies (and ticks earlier in the season). Access points are spread out. If you enjoy this scenery (I do!) than yes, it's great. I section hiked it when we were living nearby for a work assignment, so DW was my shuttle, usually. If you are just driving up to the area, the logistics might be a bit tougher. It would take some planning, but there are guide books and maps available on-line.
There lots of day hikes in the area, if you want more casual hikes - see the TRNP website for suggestions. Most weekends I just hiked in off of the I-90 Painted Canyon overlook, but both the north and south units have interesting areas to visit. I doubt the water levels in August will offer much kayaking in TRNP. We went towards Bismarck/Mandan to access the Missouri River from several state/local parks. Last visited in 2013.

The Black Hills (South Dakota) area has the Centennial Trail at ~100 miles point-point. Again, lots of open grassland country on this trail. The Black Hills (w/Custer State Park) had numerous day hikes that can be easily accessed and strung together for a multi-day hiking trip. Black Elk Peak (Harney Peak) is our go-to when we visit every few years and we camp at the hike-in sites near Sylvan Lake. Last visited in 2018. We haven't kayaked in this area.

Forgot to mention - The Sturgis motorcycle rally is in August - Aug 2-11 this year. Lots of folks touring.
Last edited by wanderer on Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Prokofiev » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:15 pm

I have been there several times and it can be very hot and sunny in August. But I enjoyed it.

However, if you have never been to South Dakota, Badlands NP, Mt Rushmore, Wind Cave, Custer State park, etc. I would definitely go there first. More to do and see plus a little cooler up in the Black Hills. Far more variety.
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R2D2
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:17 pm

Thanks Wanderer.

Yeah, we're definitely looking for day hikes. We don't camp.

How annoying are the bugs in August? I'm a mosquito magnet but I can wear bug spray. Do I need to wear long pants to guard against ticks? (That would be an issue for me!)

And do you think we could spend 5 days there or would it get old after 2 or 3?

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R2D2
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:24 pm

Prokofiev wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:15 pm
I have been there several times and it can be very hot and sunny in August. But I enjoyed it.

However, if you have never been to South Dakota, Badlands NP, Mt Rushmore, Wind Cave, Custer State park, etc. I would definitely go there first. More to do and see plus a little cooler up in the Black Hills. Far more variety.
I was surprised that it's slightly cooler in SD than ND (at least when I compared park temperatures). Good to know.

Thanks for the suggestion. Maybe we should skip ND altogether and just go to SD. How interesting was Wind Cave? I've toured caves before (though they were very touristy locations) and it didn't thrill me much.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Wilderness Librarian » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:28 pm

Admittedly not the best person to respond as I have no experience in either but I will give it a shot anyway. Both parks are high on my to do list for their combinations of geology grasslands ecology and lower volume of hikers. However I think of them as spring & fall destinations and don't think I would want to be there summer. (Then again I dislike August for just about everything except high altitude/latitude destinations - probably my least favorite month of the year). Hiking potential is good in both but Badlands the more scenic. I think TR better for bison & Prairie Dog ecology (the two are intertwined and part of the same) Others may want to correct me if wrong

This months Backpacker magazine which just arrived in my mailbox yesterday has a short feature of "The Wall" in Badlands. I remember several other hikes in both parks mentioned in previous volumes and in some of their spin off books such as Hidden Gems: 100 greatest undiscovered hikes across America.

However I tend to be more of a map person and use guidebooks only sparingly. I would suggest not planning much and talk to rangers when you get there. You mention 5 hours driving between the two as a lot. To me that is not much extra time especially considering it would take me 2 days to get to either one.

My preference would be to consider a spring or fall version connecting 4 grasslands national parks (Tall Grass Prairie or whatever it is called in Kansas, Badlands in South Dakota, TR in North Dakota and Grasslands in Saskatchewan) going south to north in spring or reverse in fall. Ideally I would do it twice - once in each direction and maybe add in some Nature Conservancy preserves. But that is just me.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:31 pm

Wilderness Librarian wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:28 pm
Admittedly not the best person to respond as I have no experience in either but I will give it a shot anyway. Both parks are high on my to do list for their combinations of geology grasslands ecology and lower volume of hikers. However I think of them as spring & fall destinations and don't think I would want to be there summer. (Then again I dislike August for just about everything except high altitude/latitude destinations - probably my least favorite month of the year).
Thanks for the reply. Would you recommend a different location for August? We figured the Dakotas were a good place to go that time of year, since it wouldn't be super-hot and these parks don't seem to get crowded. But maybe there's a high altitude NP that you'd recommend.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Prokofiev » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:43 pm

I like caves. I have visited Wind Cave NP and Jewel Cave NM. Quite close to each other, but very different cave environments. I would visit both, especially if you have 5+ days there. But if you don't like caves . . .

The Black Hills are at 4,000-7,000+ feet in elevation so it is cooler than TR Natl Park.
Badlands NP is usually very hot and sunny. Like 100+ in August. But just go early, stop at the various overlooks and/or go on short hikes. But be prepared for hellish mid-day weather. You can go from Rapid City and return in a day. I hour drive each way, plus a stop at Wall Drugs is mandatory.
Custer State park is very nice.

You can spend 5-7 days in this area and still want more. I would not spend more than 2 days at TR Natl Park. And yes it is a long (5 hr+) drive north to see it.
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by nodak » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:45 pm

There are a lot of good hikes on the Maah Daah Hey Trail, like the others said. It also has a good variety of prairies and badlands depending on what you are looking for. Also can go find the Ice Cave further north on the trail. Bring lots of water as towns (and people) are few and far between and the temperature can easily top 95-100 degrees in August with no shade in many areas.

The TRNP park itself has a lot of trails, more in the south unit than the north unit. A lot of the trails close to the road are pretty mild, but get more strenuous going up and down buttes as you get further away. If you enjoy hiking, you could definitely find 5 days worth of hiking within the park and the MDH trail, especially if you head to the north unit as well (pass works for both units). And if you can get to Wind Canyon closer to sundown, it's a really nice view.

Agree with wanderer, kayaking usually isn't in the cards in August, but once in a while you get lucky with higher rainfall. The badlands are gorgeous when they still have some green left from the rain.

Bugs vary a lot. If it dries out there won't be a lot of mosquitoes. There have been a lot of ticks this year, but again, a lot can change by August if the rain shuts off.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by wanderer » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:17 pm

I brought up bugs because the MDH trail and TRNP areas in North Dakota are open grassland range so the bugs there can be very annoying, again depending on how the season is going. The Black Hills area isn't bad at all. The nuisance, if any, will be more typical of park areas.

The Black Hills area also has a larger variety of activities and scenery as noted by Prokofiev, as well as plenty of access to hotels and tourist traps.

There is Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials, and Needles highway scenic drive right there. If a few 30 min -2 hr hikes are what you are looking for, than there are several along this scenic drive. The historic mining area is in Lead and Deadwood (casinos and resorts now) is just to the north. Then there's Spearfish Canyon and Roughlock Falls just up from there. Spearfish Canyon is a beautiful valley, especially nice for fall leaves, and is also where the winter scenes in Dances with Wolves was filmed. A day trip heading NW into Wyoming is Devil's Tower. Heading east is The Badlands, especially great at sunset. Heading south is Wind Cave.

Not sure of your route in/out, but here are a few ideas for add-ons.
If you are interested in the pioneer trails, and are going to or coming from the west, consider some back roads. Independence Rock and the Mormon Handcart Memorial are near Alcova, WY, a bit west of Casper. These are unique sites, not easily accessible, that are often skipped by the usual visitor to this part of the country. the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express trails all went through this area to get through the south pass.

If you are heading in/out from the south east and want some kayaking, consider the Niobrara river in Nebraska. Outfitters are generally out of Valentine, NE.

Again, not sure when you are going to the hills, but the rally will be in progress the first half of the month of August, so expect more crowds.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:49 pm

Thanks, Wanderer for all the tips. SD is looking more and more appealing (compared to ND) for August. And given what you said about the crowds, I think we'll plan for the 2nd half of August.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Barkingsparrow » Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:35 pm

R2D2 wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:49 pm
Thanks, Wanderer for all the tips. SD is looking more and more appealing (compared to ND) for August. And given what you said about the crowds, I think we'll plan for the 2nd half of August.
One of my all-time favorite trips was to South Dakota. We did a lot of what Wanderer suggested: Badlands, Custer Stake Park (watch out for the donkeys), Needles Scenic Drive, Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood,Wind Cave, and Devil's Tower. At the time we were there, they doing some buffalo round-up at Custer State Park and that was awesome to watch, seeing that large herd.

Let's see, we took back roads to the Devil's Tower, and came across some off the beaten path locations, including something called the Vore Buffalo Jump, and some tiny little town with a population of 10, with this small store where we stopped and talked for a long time with the owners (like they had much else going on).

I personally did not care for Mt Rushmore, a big disappointment to my family and the Crazy Horse Memorial felt very touristy.

We stayed at some B&B out of the middle of nowhere, just cannot remember what town. I know it was in the Custer area. One memory was this restaurant in this tiny town near by that had this steakhouse. The "menu" had 2 items: a small cut or a large cut of steak. And you got a baked potato, salad, and a slice of pie. No variations whatsoever.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by wanderer » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:30 pm

Have to agree on Mt. Rushmore. Still, it's on most folks "bucket list". They remodeled a number of years ago. Added the huge parking facility, bigger highway, and new display platform/buildings to accommodate the crowds. The old path and viewing was much more intimate and framed by the trees and hills. You can still (at least last year) walk down some of the old path and see some of these views. And it's much quieter. Great place for break.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by philsnyder » Thu Jul 04, 2019 11:21 pm

I lead a dozen people on a week of day hikes in the park for the Sierra Club. The Badlands of North Dakota are greener and more interesting than the Badlands of South Dakota, and the hiking is outstanding. Long hikes? In the South Unit the Lone Tree Loop at 9.6 miles and the Petrified Forest Loop at 10.3 miles are highlights. There were no bug issues last year at the end of August and the temps were comfortable. This trip is sold out this year, but you can get more details about day hiking in the park from this year's Sierra Club brochure: https://content.sierraclub.org/outings/ ... rip=19198A

Bison and prairie dogs are visible on all the hikes and you may see wild horses, antelope, rattlesnakes and more. And it would be a shame to be here and not enjoy the Medora Musical: https://medora.com/do/entertainment/

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by RetiredAL » Thu Jul 04, 2019 11:31 pm

R2D2 wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:11 pm
DW and I are thinking of visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park in August. We both like strenuous hiking and nice scenery, and we could probably be talked into doing some kayaking/canoing.

Is TRNP a good place for this? Are there long hikes to do or are they all short?

And any general opinions of TRNP out there?

We were also considering tacking on Badlands NP to the trip. It's a long drive (almost 5 hours) so we don't want to add that on if it's similar to what we'd see at TRNP.

Any advice on this would be appreciated. We are national park newbies.
Several years back we spend a few days in the TRNP area in Sept. We stayed at Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch which is adjacent to the west side of the park with trails into the park. It has cabins and motel rooms. We did some hiking, but not to the extent you are talking about.

Medora can be pricey in the summer, and near closes up in Sept.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:00 am

Again, I appreciate all the advice. It is very helpful.

One thing I forgot to ask about: We really enjoy hikes that take you much farther up than where you started (like you might see at places like Zion or Bryce NP). Is there a lot of that at Badlands NP? I know there are a lot of mountains there but I wasn't sure if there were paths leading up them.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Prokofiev » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:13 am

No, it is just the opposite. It is an erosional landscape and the road is a rim road. So most any hike will be down into a valley. Many turn-outs are over-looks with no real hike involved. There is a fossil trail and one other near the Visitor Center. Badlands does not have mountains. It is an erosion feature cut into a desert plain, but very much worth seeing. For longer hikes, I would stay in the Black Hills. Also there is a Minuteman missile silo site near the Badlands Visitor Center. I found it very interesting taking a tour back in time (60's-70's) into the silo with a retired Air Force man. You must sign-up for this in advance, but it is worth the 90 minutes or so as part of that day. Plus its cool down there. Then stop at Wall Drugs, if only for 20 minutes. Sure it's a tourist trap, but an interesting one.

Mt. Rushmore is very crowded, especially during the dusk light show, but I can't imagine going there and not seeing it. Less than you expected? Perhaps, but still something you have to do. I have seen Crazy Horse from a distance only.
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by wanderer » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:29 am

Hikes in Black Hills (Custer SP) are up or down depending on where you start. Black Elk (Harney) Peak is a hike to the highest elevation east of the Rockies. You generally start the hike at Sylvan Lake. It can be "steep" in spots, but nothing like climbing in many areas in UT or NH Whites.

Devil's Tower is bouldering up a bit, then climbing/mountaineering (ropes) if one really wanted to get to the top.

btw...Don't most hikes in Bryce start at the "top", go down in, then back up/out sort of like the Grand Canyon? That's representative of some hikes in TRNP (ND), but not so much in the Black Hills. You will have more elevation changes in the Black Hills.

If you are accustomed to the crowds at Zion/Bryce than the Black Hills will not be too bad. :happy

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by GCD » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:38 am

Most of the good hiking areas in the Black Hills have already been mentioned, lots of interesting drives too. As a former resident of Rapid City, let me assure you that, unless you are a biker, you don't want to be anywhere near Rapid City the week prior to the Sturgis Rally to a couple days after.

8/2 - 8/11 https://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com/

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Cody6136 » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:34 am

philsnyder wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 11:21 pm
I lead a dozen people on a week of day hikes in the park for the Sierra Club. The Badlands of North Dakota are greener and more interesting than the Badlands of South Dakota, and the hiking is outstanding. Long hikes? In the South Unit the Lone Tree Loop at 9.6 miles and the Petrified Forest Loop at 10.3 miles are highlights. There were no bug issues last year at the end of August and the temps were comfortable. This trip is sold out this year, but you can get more details about day hiking in the park from this year's Sierra Club brochure: https://content.sierraclub.org/outings/ ... rip=19198A

Bison and prairie dogs are visible on all the hikes and you may see wild horses, antelope, rattlesnakes and more. And it would be a shame to be here and not enjoy the Medora Musical: https://medora.com/do/entertainment/
Solid advice, OP.

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R2D2
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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:44 am

wanderer wrote:
Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:29 am
Hikes in Black Hills (Custer SP) are up or down depending on where you start. Black Elk (Harney) Peak is a hike to the highest elevation east of the Rockies. You generally start the hike at Sylvan Lake. It can be "steep" in spots, but nothing like climbing in many areas in UT or NH Whites.

Devil's Tower is bouldering up a bit, then climbing/mountaineering (ropes) if one really wanted to get to the top.
This is great. Thanks wanderer!

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by Slapshot » Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:34 pm

We've been to all the places discussed here. I'd opt for the Black Hills every time. Rapid City is a neat town. Custer State Park can keep you occupied for a week. Wind Cave is nearby for a day trip and definitely worth a look. Same for Mt. Rushmore. Teddy Roosevelt didn't appeal to us, but we just did the driving loop. Badlands was cool and worth a short stop/overnight, but I wouldn't want to be there on a real hot day.
This time, like all times, is the best of times if we but know what to do with it.

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by R2D2 » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:50 am

A lot of you said to look into Wind Cave National Park. I read up on it a bit, and it does look cool.

We also wanted to try rock climbing. Are there any places in Wind Cave (or nearby) that offer lessons to total beginners that you'd recommend. Google turned up sylvanrocks.com, which is in Black Hills National Forest. It sounds like we should check out Black Hills anyway, so this is certainly a possibility. Any other recommendations are appreciated.

[DW was surprised that I'd turn to a finance web site for vacation advice, but she's clearly not familiar with bogleheads! It's really remarkable how knowledgeable people here are about all sorts of topics.]

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Re: Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Badlands NP -- good for hiking in August?

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:59 am

There may be a better place in these United States to enjoy a musical and a pitchfork steak fondue dinner than Medora, ND at the entrance to the south section of TRNP, but I am not aware of it.

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