The North Unit is a bit off the beaten path alongside ND Highway 85. Its ruggedness and beauty, and the solitude you'll find in this less-visited unit of the park are well worth the 50 mile drive from Interstate 94.
14 Mile Scenic DrivePlan at least 1 hour and 15 minutes for th North Unit's out-and-back Scenic Drive (28 miles roundtrip). The first half of the road traces the bottom of the badlands. Midway through, it crawls up out of the canyon to the North Unit's most iconic view, River Bend Overlook. From there, it's an easy drive along the rim of the badlands to Oxbow Overlook at the road's end. The road is almost entirely paved with only one stretch of gravel and is open to motor vehicles (including RVs) and cyclists.
HikingNature Trails in the North Unit are perfect for casual hikers and nature enthusiasts, but the backcountry trails really steal the show! The Buckhorn, Caprock Coulee, and famed Achenbach Trails traverse the park's vast wilderness areas. Be sure to pick up a backcountry permit for overnight hiking.
Wildlife WatchingBison are often visible from the scenic drive at all hours of the day, while mule deer usually make appearances around dawn and dusk. Careful observers may spot bighorn sheep on or near steep cliff edges. Driving is often the best way to view wildlife, as you can cover more ground this way than on foot. However, to see prairie dogs in the North Unit, you'll have to take a hike! Remember to keep a safe distance from all wildlife you encounter.
CampingSites in the North Unit's Juniper Campground are on a first come, first served basis, except for the group campsite which is by reservation only. Juniper only occasionally fills to capacity on weekends in summer. Sites are primitive (no RV hookups). Camping in the backcountry requires a free permit.
Visitor Contact StationA temporary facility currently serves as the North Unit's visitor center. Rangers staffing the contact station provide trip planning information and issue backcountry permits. Visitors can also shop a small selection of books and souvenirs and view the park's 17 minute orientation film.
Lodging, Dining, and ServicesThere are no services, restaurants, or lodging options in the park.
Watford City, ND, is the North Unit's nearest community, about 15 miles north of the park entrance on Highway 85. Watford City has lodging, dining, gas, and groceries. There is a travel center (gas, food, very limited groceries) at the junction of Highway 85 and ND 200, about 20 miles south of the North Unit's entrance.
Last updated: December 3, 2020