For people visiting the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Cottonwood Campground is a great place to stay. Located five miles from the entrance to the South Unit of the park, the campground is open year-round.
Hikers can access the estimated 70 miles of trails within a short distance of the campground; please stop at a Visitor Center for more details.
Toilets, drinking water and picnic tables are provided at this facility. The site can accommodate tents, trailers and RVs. Sites can accommodate up to six people and two vehicles (group site can accomodate 7-20 people). There are no hookups or a dump station. A water fill station is available for campers. All wheeled vehicles and trailers must remain on roadways or pads.
The Little Missouri River is the central, unifying feature of this wild and broken land where, as a young man, Theodore Roosevelt ranched and hunted in the 1880s. The park is part of both the Northern Great Plains and the West, blending a rich natural beauty with diverse human history. The rugged topography, with its flora and fauna, also provides an opportunity to discover the badlands environment as Roosevelt once did. It is a place to experience a land and way of life that helped shape Theodore Roosevelt's attitudes and philosophy regarding conservation. Cottonwood trees surrounding the campsite turn golden in the fall. Although the campground is moderately forested, most of the campsites are in partial to full sun but visitors can cool off in the cold river when temperatures peak during summer.
The town of Medora has shopping, restaurants, amenities and the Medora Musical is located approximately five miles to the south. The Little Missouri National Grasslands is the largest National Grassland in the nation at 1.03 million acres. It is located in western North Dakota and is managed by the Medora Ranger District in Dickinson, ND and the McKenzie Ranger District in Watford City, ND. The National Grassland provides additional recreation opportunities in the area.
ADA Access: N
As the only campground in TRNP South, it’s the place to be when visiting this section of the park. Most of the best sites are reservable so jump on those if you can, otherwise there are plenty of good non reservable sites as well (evens I believe). I was fortunate enough to stumble across a couple leaving a non reservable site by the river around 10am and snagged that spot (52?). Great spot with plenty of necessary shade and a great view of sunset falling behind the hills.
There isn’t much to do right from the campsite but you’re a short drive from most of the parks highlights (scenic drive, hiking from the Valley Lodge). Be sure to take a drive at sunset one night. The view from the short Wind Canyon trail is stunning at this hour and you may run into some Bison leaving the river along the way.
Will use this platform to also note that TRNP is one of my favorite hidden gem NP’s around. Didn’t know a thing about it ‘til I got there and absolutely loved it. The more prairie-like section of the “badlands.”
Two loops; the north loop is open year-round. The south loop is open mid-May through September. There are also walk-in sites and a group site, off the south loop. The campground fills up almost every day in the summer, even during the week. Odd-numbered sites are reservable while even number sites are first-come, first-served. We were not able to get into the site we had reserved (a nice pull-through with views of the bluffs and the river) because the people staying there the night before were having difficulty with their RV and not able to move it. We had been re-assigned to Site 38, a much larger site, but among the trees with no view. We were bummed but had no choice as the campground was full. We thought we might try to move the next day, but it turns out friends were able to join us, so our large site ended up being to our advantage. The pull-through in Site 38 was so large that it could have easily accommodated three large Class A motorhomes with room to spare! Large picnic table that was pushed up against the trees; we discovered the next afternoon that it was to take advantage of as much shade as possible. No fire ring; campfires are permitted in charcoal bbq grates or fully contained fire pans. Wood was not available to purchase at the campground; you must go to Medora(about five miles away) to purchase or you can collect dead and down firewood. Bathroom was clean enough with flush toilets but NO SOAP! No showers but we didn’t expect them in a National Park campground. Several very short trails in the park but the most popular Petrified Forest Trail is accessible from outside the park. Saw bison, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, wild horses.
Camping inside National Parks is always a treat. Cottonwood Campground makes exploring Theodore Roosevelt NP very accessible. The site is close to the river and you can easily walk to it from the campground. Very peaceful and secluded, it makes you feel like you are really in the wild. We saw bison and wild horses across the river from the campground. Some sites don’t have a lot of shade so get there early if you want a site with trees.
I have mixed feelings on this campground. We were here mid- July and it was incredibly hot. There is limited shade and little relief from the heat. We had a nice site with the river running alongside it, but it was a dark muddy brown, so not at all enticing to go in it. The host was very friendly and helpful. Bathrooms & water access were nearby but there are no showers within the park. There was also no soap in the bathroom. I was disappointed that there are no fire pits, just small grills at each site. I understand there is probably a moderately high fire danger in the park often, but disappointing nonetheless. The campground has tent, RV and walk in sites available. Some are reservable- some not. The scenery is beautiful in a weird, other worldly way. Unfortunately it was challenging to enjoy it fully due to the 90+ degree temps.
Really enjoyed staying here. I had to stay elsewhere the first night I cake because the campsite was full so make sure to get there early for walk in or make reservations. Great views great staff. Lots of families and children if your ok with that. Spaces are not very private.
This spot is unbelievable. Gorgeous views. Buffalo in the campground. Quiet, private enough, clean pot toilets, secure bear garbages. Just amazing!
Its more of a "back to wilderness" kind of camping. Not a bunch of luxurious amenities, but, camping as it should be.
Family friendly, great for tent camping and R.V.’s. The River is your backyard, great for hiking and lots of wildlife to see! No showers.
Pro's- Close to the town of Medora with so much to do for families. Wildlife is abundant in the park. Nice clean campground. Large spaces for tents and RV's. Deer, prarie dogs, bison, turkeys…and wild horses!
Con's- Road construction going into the park with around 10-20 minute wait.
We were one of a few campers in this campground. Amazingly vast and wild! Highly recommend!!! We woke up to find bison all around us. Truly a beautiful and unique experience I'll never forget.