Top Off-Roading Destinations in the Dakotas

North and South Dakota are not always at the top of people’s tourism wish lists. However, these states offer visitors plenty of unique and rewarding experiences worth considering for your next vacation, especially if you’re a thrill-seeking, overlanding enthusiast! Read on to learn about three of the top off-roading destinations in the Dakotas.

North Dakota: Pembina Gorge

North Dakota’s Pembina region is one of the most scenic locations in the entire country. Along with the Pembina Gorge, this area boasts a cretaceous glacial river, an Icelandic state park, and more. The Pembina Gorge is certainly a hotspot for off-roading enthusiasts, thanks to the Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area. This recreation zone contains nearly 3,000 acres of public land and supports horseback riding, biking, hiking, and, most importantly, off-road overlanding! These off-roading trails are constantly maintained, ensuring a better experience for you and your passengers.

South Dakota: Black Hills National Park

Black Hills National Park is home to the legendary Timbered Mountains and runs from South Dakota into Wyoming, spanning over 125 miles long and 65 miles wide. Inside this region is a spectacular collection of jaw-dropping landscapes, winding canyons, towering mountain peaks, sprawling grasslands with grazing fauna, crystal-clear lakes, curving cave systems, babbling streams, and more. This destination boasts the Black Hills National Forest Motorized Trail System, a system of nearly 4,000 miles of roads and 600 miles of usable off-roading trails. Follow the Motorized Trail System to get the most out of your Black Hills visit!

Both Dakotas: The Badlands

Are you interested in an off-roading adventure that offers experiences in bothDakotas? Luckily, one of the most famous off-roading destinations for overlanding enthusiasts—The Badlands—stretches across both states. The Badlands are a massive section of protected land that meet up with the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The North Dakota side of the Badlands features less usable off-roading trails than its southern counterpart; however, the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is consistently less packed with other travelers and home to denser populations of native wildlife. Plus, the views from the North Unit are absolutely stunning! Another great ND Badlands destination is Little Missouri Badlands, which features trails carved into the rocks dating back to the late Cretaceous period.

The South Unit of the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park is certainly more popular among tourists, from off-roaders to sightseers and everyone in between. Luckily, the expansive SD Badlands provide enough room to accommodate all these visitors. Cedar Butte Trail and Sheep Mountain Table Road are the best places to spin your tires—both of these destinations boast incredible landscapes, challenging terrains, and active wildlife.

These are just some of the top off-roading destinations in the Dakotas worth visiting, so modify your Jeep Wrangler or other off-roading vehicle accordingly before you start exploring. The people of North and South Dakota are wonderful hosts who can’t wait to show you their beautiful land!

By Dianne Pajo

Dianne Pajo is a writer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.