Elkhorn Ranch Unit

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the lesser-visited parks. When visiting the North Unit of the park we saw only a handful of other people. When driving the rough dirt road to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, we didn’t pass a single other vehicle and when we got out of the car, there wasn’t another person to be seen. If you’re looking for solitude in a National Park, look no further than the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

Elkhorn Ranch SignThe Elkhorn Ranch Unit was home to Theodore Roosevelt’s “home ranch” in North Dakota and was where he came to heal after the death of his wife and mother. Roosevelt chose this location because of its remoteness. Roosevelt himself described the ranch in his book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman: “My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand–though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and for, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset.”

Now, all that remains of the cabin are the foundation stones. Roosevelt abandoned the ranch in 1890 and locals stripped the buildings of their furnishings, although his desk was saved and can be seen at the south unit visitor center.

Shadows on the bank of the Little Missouri

Theodore Roosevelt is my husband’s favorite president and in a way, this trip was like a pilgrimage for him. He has read the whole three-book Theodore Roosevelt biography by Edmund Morris. To be able to walk in Roosevelt’s footsteps and see the foundation stones of his cabin (along with a visit to Chateau de Mores) was very special.

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located between the north and south units of the park. There is a National Forest Service campground near the parking area, other than that, there’s nothing else around for miles. The park website says to check-in at one of the visitor centers before making the drive because the road floods and can become impassable after rain and 4-wheel drive is recommended, but we made it in our rental Jeep Cherokee without any problems. There are no facilities or scenic drives in this part of the park, but if you enjoy American history, it is a good place to visit.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.