Stargazing | Medora, North Dakota

Stargazing Guide to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Stargazing Guide to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

by Alix Johnson | April 26, 2023

Whether you’re an amateur astronomer or just a curious stargazer, Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s wide-open skies offer a stellar opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and gaze into the cosmos.

Imagine gazing up into a velvet black sky, dotted with the twinkle of stars and planets, where the Milky Way unfurls like a cosmic ribbon across the horizon, and constellations dance across the darkness. But that’s not all you’ll find in this stunning natural oasis. The Northern Lights, meteor showers and man-made astronomical wonders like the International Space Station transit are all visible in the night sky at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

So grab your telescope, a constellation guide, and get ready to experience the magic of the cosmos in one of the most breathtaking settings on the planet.

Stargazing Sights

Stargazing Sights

The Milky Way

When it comes to stargazing at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, few sights are more breathtaking than the Milky Way. This stunning ribbon of light stretches across the sky like a glittering bridge, inviting visitors to marvel at the majesty of the cosmos.

Did you know that the Milky Way is actually a barred spiral galaxy that contains over 100 billion stars?



Northern Lights

For those seeking a truly magical stargazing experience at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, plan a trip to coincide with the Northern Lights. Witness a true miracle of nature with the sky painted in hues of green, blue, pink, and purple.

Did you know that the Northern Lights are caused by the collision of charged particles from the sun with the Earth’s magnetic field?

Astronomical Events

Pull up a front-row seat to a wide range of astronomical events, from meteor showers and comet sightings, to the International Space Station transiting across the sky. Planning a visit around these regular events will help make a great stargazing trip even better!

Did you know that during the annual Perseid meteor shower, up to 60 meteors can be seen streaking across the sky every hour?

Top 5 Stargazing Stops

Top 5 Stargazing Stops

Peaceful Valley Ranch

Located 7 miles into the park, Peaceful Valley Ranch features the original 1885 homestead ranch house of Benjamin Lamb. Today the ranch serves as a trailhead that allows hikers to ford the Little Missouri River into the park’s backcountry. It also serves as a site for park events such as the Annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival. Stargazers will find plenty of parking at the trailhead, open views of the overhead sky and plenty of developed ground to set up telescopes, chairs or blankets. Late  night visitors should, however, keep an ear out for four-legged neighbors as this is a popular area for bison spottings. 

Wind Canyon

Wind Canyon is one of Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s most photographed locations for a reason! This 0.5-mile loop trail brings visitors along eroded cliffs to a dramatic lookout above the Little Missouri River. Stargazers will feel like they are on top of the world with the Milky Way stretched across the sky and mirrored in the river below. Wind Canyon features multiple overlooks along the cliff edge, with ample opportunities for astrophotography to the South, West, and North. 

Buck Hill

As one of the highest points in the park, Buck Hill offers 360°, unobstructed views of the North Dakota sky. From the parking loop, Buck Hill Trail brings visitors up a short 0.4-mile out-and-back hike to the crest of the hill. With Buck Hill’s unbeatable views across Painted Canyon, stargazers may choose to start their night here for a stunning sunset and starrise. Located near the southern edge of the park, Buck Hill is also a great stop for unpolluted northern views – perfect for seeing the Northern Lights!

Beef Corral Bottom

Beef Corral Bottom is a true treasure for stargazers, hiding in plain sight along the park’s scenic drive. During the day, visitors can enjoy up-close views of the prairie dog town, but at night, the wide valley transforms into a stunning spot for stargazing. Whether you’re an experienced stargazer with all the gear in tow or just looking for an easy night-time stop, Beef Corral Bottom has you covered. With its accessible location and clear sky views, you can simply park your car and gaze up at the stars.

Riverbend Overlook

Located in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, River Bend Overlook offers stunning views from a historic shelter constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. Looking west stargazers will see the North Unit’s rugged terrain and Little Missouri River before the starry backdrop. The unique features and terrain make it a top choice for amateur astrophotographers and stargazers alike.

Star Studded Events

2023 Dates TBD

Every year astronomers and star gazing enthusiasts visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park for 3 days of education, story telling and viewing the night sky. Enjoy discussions of NASA missions, stories of the stars from cultures of the past and present day, and information about the park’s night time critters.

Perseid Meteor Shower

July 17 – August 24, 2023

The Perseid meteor shower is an annual event that takes place in August and is considered one of the best meteor showers of the year. It occurs when the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, causing the debris to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere and creating bright streaks of light in the sky. During the peak of the shower, stargazers can expect to see up to 60 meteors per hour.

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