North Dakota
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Off the Radar: Unearthing 18 North Dakota Hidden Gems

Beyond well-trodden tourist spots, North Dakota harbors a wealth of off-the-beaten-path destinations and hidden gems in the upper Midwest. From enchanting natural wonders to historic forts to unique museums, a tapestry of NoDak treasures is waiting to be uncovered.

Icelandic State Park-North Dakota
Icelandic State Park | photo via ourunkemptadventures

Icelandic State Park

Nestled along the shores of Lake Renwick, this 912-acre park offers a glimpse into North Dakota’s Icelandic heritage and a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities. Visitors can explore buildings like the Hallson Church, highlighting North Dakota’s homesteading years. The park also includes three miles of trails and space for boating, fishing, and much more.

International Peace Garden

Straddling North Dakota’s border with Canada, this vibrant garden symbolizes peace and friendship between nations and must be seen to be fully appreciated. Visitors can pass by beautiful gardens with thousands of flowers, monuments, and walking trails across 2,300 acres. Guests also won’t want to miss unique features like the cairn on the border, a working floral clock, and a carillon bell tower. 

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

This unique site north of Bismarck preserves the culture and history of the Northern Plains Indians and the area once the home of Native American guide Sacagawea (spelled Sakakwea in North Dakota) who guided Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. Visitors can explore reconstructed earthlodges (with seasonal replica artifacts), the remains of three different village sites, and interpretive trails.

Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area

Pembina Gorge offers an unforgettable escape into the wild for those looking to explore a lesser-known slice of North Dakota’s natural beauty. This sprawling natural playground covers over 12,500 acres and invites visitors to hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride along well-maintained trails that offer breathtaking views of the gorge. With the Pembina River winding through the terrain, the area appeals to nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site-North Dakota
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site | photo via searchingforjazz

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

History buffs and curious tourists can take a step back in time to when Fort Union was an important trading post on the Missouri River and a bastion of peaceful coexistence between fur traders and Native Americans. Visitors will enjoy this reconstruction of a bygone era which includes trading posts, living history demonstrations, and interpretive programs.

Lake Metigoshe State Park

Situated in the Turtle Mountains, this park is the perfect year-round NoDak vacation spot. Thirteen miles of trails allow for restful bike rides, leisurely strolls, and wildlife watching, while the park’s small lakes are perfect for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing In the winter, the park is a playground for ice fishing, fat tire biking, sledding, and cross-country skiing.

White Horse National Game Preserve-North Dakota
White Horse National Game Preserve | photo via mstenhjem

White Horse National Game Preserve

Travelers who have heard tales of herds of buffalo roaming the American countryside can see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Visitors can catch glimpses of bison, deer, elk, and prairie dogs on the preserve along with over 200 species of birds, making this an ideal spot to bask in the beauty of nature or indulge in some wildlife photography.

Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site

Widely known as the Gateway to the Dakotas, Fort Abercrombie was once an important military supply point in the 1800s, Today, it remains to offer a peek into frontier life, specifically the US-Dakota War of 1862, with reconstructed buildings, interpretive exhibits, living history demonstrations, and uniforms and equipment used by former soldiers.

Sheyenne National Grassland-North Dakota
Sheyenne National Grassland | photo via bill.souders

Sheyenne National Grassland

Covering more than 100,000 acres of land in Southeast North Dakota, the only National Grassland in the nation’s tallgrass prairie region is a vast expanse that beckons visitors with opportunities for recreation and solitude. Visitors can gaze upon a unique landscape with varied topography and stop at several points of interest including the Owego Pioneer Cemetery, and historic bridges.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit)

While the park’s South Unit is more well-known, the North Unit offers equally stunning scenery, wildlife viewing, and hiking opportunities with fewer crowds. Travelers can take a 14-mile scenic drive through the park or opt for a more rustic experience camping or hiking The Buckhorn, the Achenbach, and other trails to connect with nature in the heart of the Plains.

Chateau de Mores State Historic Site-North Dakota
Chateau de Mores State Historic Site | photo via mikefitchnyc

Chateau de Mores State Historic Site

The unique hidden gem southwest of Medora memorializes the life of the Marquis de Mores, a frontier ranchman and businessman in the Badlands in the late 1880s. His home, a 26-room, two-story summer residence is open for public tours where visitors can see many of the de Mores family’s original furnishings and personal effects.

Lewis and Clark State Park

Located on Lake Sakakawea with views of towering Badlands buttes, the park is named for the famous explorers said to have camped nearby in 1805. Visitors can camp and connect with nature along a self-guided nature trail or try their luck catching two rare fish species — the pallid sturgeon and the paddlefish — in the western reaches of the lake.

Painted Canyon Overlook-North Dakota
Painted Canyon Overlook | photo via speckontheglobe

Painted Canyon Overlook

For out-of-town visitors, Painted Canyon is a dramatic and vibrant introduction to the Badlands, named for its colorful, vivid layers. The overlook offers breathtaking views of the Badlands with colorful rock formations and opportunities to see herds of bison and snap a few pictures to remember your trip.

North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

Located in the capital city of Bismarck, this museum is one of the best places to soak up 600 million years of North Dakota history. Visitors can see everything from a T. rex skeleton to a spacesuit to rare pottery and beadwork and enjoy simulators and other fun interactive exhibits to make history come alive.

The Coghlan Castle-North Dakota
The Coghlan Castle | photo via dont_worry_be_happy_59

The Coghlan Castle

Built between 1906 and 1909, this large privately owned fieldstone farmhouse is about five miles north of Rolla at the start of the Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway. The home once belonged to entrepreneur Maurice Coghlan and his family and is the only castle in North Dakota. While the home is closed to the public, this marvel of architecture is open for appointment-only tours and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Paul Broste Rock Museum

As an avid rock collector, Paul Broste acquired some of the finest rocks in the world, cut them down, ground them, and polished them into beautiful pieces to make a museum that’s the envy of rockhounds everywhere. The museum itself is made of area granite and visitors can marvel at the sheer beauty of nature in rock displays, framed arrowheads, art, and educational displays.

On a Slant Village-North Dakota
On a Slant Village | photo via

Turtle Mountain

Towering 2,000 feet above sea level, Turtle Mountain is a hard-to-miss plateau in North Dakota. One of the state’s most prominent buttes, the Boundary Butte, stands on the western edge of the plateau. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore all the region offers including lush forests, and scenic lakes such as Lake Metigose, on a thrilling NoDak adventure.

On a Slant Village

For many years, a Mandan settlement thrived in this spot and visitors can take a fascinating step back in time as they explore this reconstructed site. The village includes five earthlodges and interpretive tours that offer glimpses into Mandan culture. Archeological evidence of the original village — inhabited until 1781 — remains as well.  

Navigate Your Way to North Dakota’s Hidden Gems

Whether you’re an intrepid traveler seeking new horizons or a local eager to unearth the secrets of your own backyard, North Dakota’s hidden gems promise one-of-a-kind journeys. In a state known for scenic beauty, natural wildlife, and towering wonders of nature, these under-the-radar spots are worth a visit and showcase a lesser-known and unique side of North Dakota.