This is a continuation of a travel series to The Great West. To start at the beginning, go HERE,, HERE, and
The past two weeks I've been sharing our adventures of all the trails and scenic views on the Scenic Loop Road in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. When we completed the loop we returned to the town of Medora to grab an early dinner. I plan on doing a post just on the town of Medora in a future travel post where I will share all the great shopping and places to eat. After dinner we drove to the Painted Canyon.
Painted Canyon Trail
Now technically, the Painted Canyon is part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, you don't need to pay to see this part of the park. It is located right off the highway, and you can just pull in and walk around the rim of the canyon, visit the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, or take a hike for absolutely nothing!
The rim of the Painted Canyon reminded me of walking the rim at Bryce Canyon National Park. It is a lovely, paved walk people of all skill levels can enjoy. But beware, buffalo patties were spotted everywhere in this area, including right by the Visitor Center and paved walk way.
The Painted Canyon is about a ten minute drive from the town of Medora. It got its name from the colorful rock layers. On the rim walk, you see a magnificent panorama of the badlands and colorful hues. We were there when the sun was still quite strong, so the hues in the photos appear more washed out than they are in real life.
We didn't hike much today, and after a refreshing dinner, we were ready to try another short hike, so we decided to take the Painted Canyon Trail. This trail was a disaster. We thought it would take us deep inside the canyon so we would be looking up at the topography but the markings were so obscure and there were so many buffalo trails, that we kept getting lost. It was very desolate, and we were terrified of running into a buffalo as we kept seeing so many patties. We kept hiking until we reached a dry river bed that was taller than us on either side. We both felt very uncomfortable because we couldn't see if anything was ahead, so we decided to turn around and go back. When we got to the top of the trail and I saw the map, I think we only made it to the blue river line. I'm not sure exactly. It was a very confusing trail.
If you were to complete the entire trail, it would be 4.3 miles out to the Paddock Creek Trail and back. It is rated as Moderate. I would agree with the rating because once you make it through the slightly steep descent, the land is relatively level.
There is another trail in this area called the "Painted Canyon Nature Loop". This one is a one mile loop close to the Visitor's Center. We did not take that trail, but I sure wish we did. Maybe another time.
Since I've been home I've read a lot of reviews about this trail and many of them said they came across buffalo, elk, and other wildlife. Many hikers said they couldn't complete the trail because of the bison. I feel fortunate that we did not encounter any on the day we there.
Other hikers also said the trail was tricky. Apparently the buffalo like to use the trail signs as scratching posts, so they keep knocking them over, Those naughty bison! 😁
The trail walks you through prairies where you see lots of wildflowers and sage brush in addition to the colorful buttes.
The buffalo trails look exactly like the actual trail (pictured below) that is why it's so easy to confuse them and get lost.
Even though I found this trail frustrating, a little scary, and confusing, it was still a pretty nature hike.
Well, believe it or not, we weren't finished with our hiking adventures for the day yet! We drove back into town, then decided to walk across the street to the Pancratz Trail. This trail is brand new to Medora. It takes you high above the town to enjoy beautiful vistas of the town of Medora. Unfortunately, we were hiking it at sunset so I didn't get the greatest of pictures as the sun was hitting my camera lens. If we ever make it back to Medora, I hope to hike this trail at sunrise or midday.
There are only two hotels located right in the town of Medora and that the Badlands Motel and the famous Rough Riders Hotel. We are budget travelers, so we stayed at the motel. We could see people hiking this trail from our motel window. The Badlands Motel is the long building behind the blue construction fence. They were building a water park while we were there. In front of the water park, is a miniature golf place.
Once you make it to the top of the trail you have a decision to make...take a very steep ladder to an even higher point, or take the chickens way out and walk along the bluff line without climbing the ladder. I had just climbed one of these ladders in the Badland's National Park and I ended up with a thigh injury I was still trying to recover from, so I chickened out and took the "easiest" path. However, I would not call this path "Easy" as there were some treacherous and very scary drop offs. In fact, I didn't take many pictures after this point, because I had to put my camera away and cling to the walls.
Hubby on the other hand, wanted to try the ladder, so up he went. It was very difficult, and he did have to stop and rest at the first landing, but he said the views from the top were amazing!
At this point we separated. I stayed below, and followed the side of the butte while he hiked above me. Every now and then I would hear him holler at me so I knew he was around. I had planned on going up to meet him when I got to the end, but by then it had gotten so dark, we decided to just descend and walk the road home.
I did see this interesting rock formation on my trail, so even though I wasn't able to climb the very top and enjoy the same views my hubby did, I saw things he missed!
The Pancratz Trail is 1.5 miles and ascends 728 feet. If you're not afraid of heights, it's a really great trail to take when you first get into town. You can see everything from up there and get a great layout of the land.
Have a Great Day! Amy
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