10 ways to spend your summer in North Dakota

Peter Watson

Follow your curiosity, not the crowd this summer in North Dakota with this collection of unique Roughrider Country experiences.

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Make the most of summer in North DakotaZakZeinert/Shutterstock

The Peace Garden State is one of the least-visited states in the US, but that statistic betrays just how captivating North Dakota is.

Fields of grain – verdant green during springtime and summer, copper-dry in the fall and blanched white in winter – spread across every vista in much of North Dakota's Roughrider Country.

Near the Montana border, there is natural beauty that justifies a trip to the state alone, while the Missouri River is stippled with sights linked with the infamous Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The legends of the American West run through the heart of North Dakota, from the aforementioned Lewis, Clark and Sakakawea to Custer and Sitting Bull.

You’ll find wide-open plains, rodeos, powwows and plenty of rich history. A cowboy hat and boots aren’t required, but they won’t look out of place.

Summer in North Dakota

Take your summer to the next level on a legendary adventure and enjoy some extraordinary experiences along the way.

See some new sites, break some records or just go the extra mile to make this summer super. I challenge you to become legendary in North Dakota!

1. Tee it up

North Dakota has more golf courses per capita than any other state in the country, meaning it's easy for you to get on and play ND's nationally acclaimed courses.

With more than 100 nine- and 18-hole golf courses, North Dakota is a golfer's paradise. To top it off, ND courses are uncluttered, inexpensive and beautiful.

North Dakota has the Lewis and Clark Golf Trail, a series of courses along the route Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific Ocean and back, through central North Dakota.

There's also the Triple Golf Challenge that includes discounted rounds at three of the state's – and the nation's – top-rated courses: Hawktree in Bismarck, Bully Pulpit at Medora and The Links of North Dakota near Ray.

2. Hold down the fort

Every good western has a fort, and your western experience in North Dakota has plenty of them, too.

From authentic buildings to faithful reconstructions, these North Dakota cavalry and infantry posts make it easy to envision life on America's last frontier.

Forts used to be a place of safety and rest on the prairies. Now they are reminders of life here at the beginning of the 19th century.

How many forts have you visited them all? This summer, delve into North Dakota's rich military history by visiting a fort (or nine!).

3. Back to the earth

Who needs a camper? Instead, try roughing it in comfort in a covered wagon, field tent, yurt or tipi at one of North Dakota's State Parks.

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Stay in a covered wagon in North DakotaND Tourism

After an enjoyable day in the great outdoors, sleeping under the stars will add a truly unforgettable element to your destination vacation. Get creative as a way to relax and rejuvenate.

There a number of adventure camping options available. Visit the North Dakota Toruism website or here for more information.

4. Cruisin'

Roll down the windows, turn the radio up and drive! Hitting the roads can be about slowing down instead of speeding up, especially when you take time to appreciate the scenery.

Amble down one of North Dakota's scenic byways or backways. You can travel by car, motorcycle or even bike.

There are a plethora of designated pathways that reveal the state’s finest vistas and experiences.

Click here for a map of North Dakota's scenic byways and backways.

5. Go for the whopper

If you ever thought of North Dakota as landlocked, you may be surprised to learn it’s a top destination for serious walleye anglers from far and wide.

The state has more than 400 lakes and rivers offering exciting action for walleye, northern pike, perch and other game fish with seasons for most species open year-round.

North Dakota's record walleye was caught in March 2021 on the Missouri River, weighing in at 16.39 pounds. It broke a 50-year-old mark. Can you break it again?

If you can't break the record, you'll at least have fun trying. And hopefully, catch enough fish for a meal.

6. Celebrate Christmas cowboy style

Mid-summer is known as Cowboy Christmas because of the large number of rodeos in North Dakota and nationwide.

Cowboys and cowgirls can win a lot of money in a short period of time – as little as four to eight seconds.

With a plethora of rodeos to choose from this summer, how many can you attend? Throw on some boots, grab your cowboy hat and get ready for a boot-scootin' good time.

If you're looking fir more information, here are 8 ways to discover your inner cowboy.

7. Get in touch with your wild side

North Dakota is home to 65 wildlife refuges – more than any other state. All offer unparalleled opportunities for viewing birds and other wildlife in their natural setting.

How many wildlife refuges can you visit this summer and how many different wildlife species can you find?

Check out the extensive list of refuges here.

8. Adventure "on the house"

Adventure in North Dakota doesn't cost a lot. In fact, some of it doesn't cost a penny. How many free events, attractions or things to do can you cram into a weekend?

Check out a list of free things to do in North Dakota here!

9. Put some fest into your summer

North Dakota hosts a myriad of cultural and heritage events from Scandinavian festivals and Native American powwows to reenactments and festivals celebrating music or native prairie fruit.

Whether you prefer to celebrate your heritage or your love of music and food, you can experience countless festivals this summer. So, grab a friend and join in the festivities.

10. Break the ‘Hey

The Maah Daah Hey Trail's 144 miles of single track pathway crosses soaring buttes, rolling grasslands and challenging downhills nestled in the stunning North Dakota Badlands.

Make it your dream to break the Maah Daah Hey's record mountain biking time of 17 hours. Are you up for the challenge?

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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