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Western North Dakota: 9 Road Trip Stops You Don’t Want to Miss

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If you want to see the most variety that North Dakota has to offer, head to the western part of the state. Here you’ll find interesting landscapes, fun roadside stops along I-94 and plenty of fun along the way. Here are our top suggestions for your North Dakota road trip between Bismarck and Montana, starting from east to west.

Before you hit the road on your North Dakota road trip, remember to slow down. Many people just breeze through this state on their way to somewhere else and pass right by some of the best uncrowded places to explore in the Midwest!

North dakota road trip stops

Bismarck Fun

If you’re starting out your road trip in Bismarck North Dakota, consider staying for a few days. There are so many fun things to do in Bismarck that it’s easy to spend a few days enjoying these uncrowded attractions.

Salem Sue, New Salem North Dakota

Salem sue

What’s a road trip without a giant cow? Salem Sue is the most popular roadside animal sculpture in North Dakota, and it’s worth it to pull off for a bit for a selfie with her. You can see this giant cow statue from the interstate and it will only take you a few minutes to detour over to visit!

Schnell Recreation Area, Richardton North Dakota

schnell recreation area

If you’re looking to get a little bit of nature in on your road trip, the best place to stop is at Schnell Recreation Area. Here you’ll find trails through the beautiful grasslands that are open to both hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers, as well as several privative campsites.

schnell recreation area

This area is only about 10 minutes off the interstate, but you’ll often have the entire place to yourself to explore the quiet and enjoy some birdwatching.

Check Out The Sunflower Route, Regent North Dakota

north dakota sunflowers regent
We were about 1 week early to see this sunflower crop in full bloom!

North Dakota is well known for it’s sunflower crop and in the late summer and early fall, you’ll be treated to the site of some spectacular views of these fields. To get the best view of the sunflower fields, head south on highway 8 toward the town of Mott.

north dakota sunflowers regent

There is a good field at GPS coordinates 46.5668390, -102.3172440 but there are also several other sunflower fields tucked into the small farm roads all around there. After you reach the town of Mott, head west over to Regent and then head north on the Enchanted Highway.

Explore Roadside Art On The Enchanted Highway

enchanted highways art North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway features 8 massive roadside metal sculptures. Each sculpture has a place to get out and take photos as well as a number you can call into where a recording will tell you more about each piece of art.

enchanted highways art North Dakota

All of the art was created by retired school teacher and local, Gary Greff, who designed all of the sculptures to celebrate some aspect of life in North Dakota. This is the perfect road trip area for kids since there are lots of stops and several of them have areas for the kids to play as well!

enchanted highways art North Dakota

Dickinson Dinosaur Museum

Dickinson dinosaur museum

North Dakota is home to some incredibly amazing paleontological discoveries, so the quality of dinosaur artifacts that you can find here is amazing. The Dickinson Dinosaur Museum is actually very small, but there is a ton of material packed inside.

dickinson dinosaur museum

While you’re there make sure to also check out the interactive topographical map exhibit and the North Dakota history room (the displays inside here were fascinating and some of the best representations of how the state has changed over time).

Dickinson West River Community Center

dickinson community center

Yes, this community recreation center is amazing enough to add to our road trip itinerary. It features both an indoor and outdoor pool (with 5 huge waterslides, a kids play area, lap pool, and lazy river), an indoor climbing wall (complete with “dinosaur bones” to climb up, and all the fitness equipment you’ll need to get your heart going. This is a great and affordable way to get some active play time together as a family on your road trip, so plan a couple of hours here.

dickinson community center

Painted Canyon Overlook and Trails, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Painted canyon nature trail north dakota

DO NOT MISS THIS STOP! Literally right off of I-94 combined with a rest area, this section of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is free to enter. Most people just admire the Painted Canyon from above (this is a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset in North Dakota), but to really appreciate it you need to take the hiking trail into the canyon. After a steep descent into the canyon, a winding trail will take you all through the colorful rock formations and geology. This is a perfect short hike on your road trip and kids will absolutley love exploring here.

Enjoy Dinner and a Show In Medora

Medora fondue

One thing that you cannot miss on your North Dakota road trip is an evening in Medora. After exploring the town, head up the hill to the evening Pitchfork Fondue dinner to enjoy some incredible steaks and a chuckwagon buffet.

medora musical

After dinner, stick around for the nightly Medora Musical. This performance does an amazing job of not only being incredibly entertaining, but also providing great insight into the local history. Our family was literally on the edge of our seats the whole night!

Discover the Maah Daah Hey Trail

maah daah hey trail mountain biking with kids

The Maah Dahh Hey trail is a 144 mile trail that winds through the badlands of North Dakota. You can bike, hike or ride the trail on horseback if you prefer. While you don’t need to do the entire trail, plan on enjoying it for at least a few miles. The most popular section of the Maah Daah Hey trail runs through Medora, so that’s an easy place to stop and check it out!

Explore Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Once you’re to the western side of North Dakota, you’ll get to enjoy one of the biggest gems the state has to offer – Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This park is a great place to see bison, deer, and the incredible scenery that shaped the man that Theodore Roosevelt became. Check out our full guide with 19 Exciting Adventures Around Theodore Roosevelt National Park for more details.

Best Places To Eat Between Bismarck and Montana

Best restaurants in Bismarck/Mandan

Copper Dog Café

copper dog cafe mandan

Breakfast is hands down my favorite meal to eat out for, and the waffles at Copper Dog Café were incredible. I especially loved that there was a good combination of sweet and savory options so you can find exactly what suits your mood and dietary needs! We tried several different options and all decided that the Banana Nut was by far the most delicious.

Sickies Garage Burgers

sickies garage bismarck

Sickies makes the best burgers in Bismarck and the fries and drinks are amazing as well. If you’re wanting a burger with EVERYTHING, make sure to try the Big Shot, loaded with pineapple, fried egg, fried pickles and their special sauce – it’s AMAZING. The sweet potato fries with Rusty Bucket seasoning were also out of this world!

Best Place To Eat In Dickinson North Dakota

Blue 42 Sports Grill

This hometown sports grill is the best place to stop if you want to catch part of the big game, or just enjoy a yummy meal off the grill. The burgers here are delicious, and if you love cheese, the gourmet Mac & Cheese bites are incredible!

Phat Fish Brewing

This is the best pizza in western North Dakota and has an awesome family friendly vibe (yes, even though it’s a brewery). Our kids loved their gourmet pizza and I even got to try my hand at Axe Throwing here!

Best Places To Eat In Medora

Cowboy Cafe

Serving up western classics in a fun atmosphere. Make sure to try the Bison Burger there!

Farmhouse Cafe

Home cooked meals with a German twist! The inside of this Cafe is absolutely adorable and the bakery items are incredible.

farmhouse cafe medora

North Dakota is a unique state that has so much to offer for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking for an urban adventure, outdoor exploration or just great food and entertainment, North Dakota will have something perfect for you. Best of all, it’s one of the least crowded places to take a family road trip. Plan your North Dakota road trip today!

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