NP Park Review – Cottonwood Campground, Medora, ND
A quiet, primitive campground inside beautiful Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Western North Dakota.
- Site Quality = 3.5/5
There are two loops here, one best-suited for smaller rigs and one that can accommodate (some) larger rigs:
- Sites 1-39 “big loop” and site 44: These are the ONLY sites that can accommodate larger rig sizes. This loop has mostly pull-through sites with a small number of back-in. Pull-throughs are by far the largest/longest sites and I’d say at least half can accommodate rigs up to 40-feet**. Back-ins are for small rigs only. All sites are hard gravel with very good separation and lovely, large, private sitting areas containing picnic tables & fire-pit. Lots of trees & pretty vegetation all-around. Biggest ding is site levelness which can vary from nicely flat to quite uneven. Also there are a many low-hanging trees & branches so be careful getting in & driving around the loop if you are “beast size” like us. Nicest sites here are sites 21 & 23, both of which have excellent views.
- Sites 45-76 “small loop”: This loop is for SMALLER rigs only (25 foot or less). Don’t even think about driving through here in a big rig (you will get into trouble!). All sites are hard gravel with very good separation and nice sitting areas containing picnic table and fire-pit. 12 of the sites (#55-66) are tent walk-ins only while the rest are short back-ins. This area is more open than the “big loop” and many sites here have a nice view of the basin. Only ding, sites can vary from level to quite uneven.
**NOTE/ Although some sites here are listed as up to 60-feet long I would not really recommend driving anything longer than 40-feet through the campground. Too many trees and tight turns. If you’re not comfortable with a “tight” drive, I’d recommend one of the other campgrounds I’ve listed below instead (see OTHER CAMPING).
- Facilities = 2/5
Very basic facilities here. On-site flush toilets, kept nicely clean, but NO showers (you can shower in nearby Medora campground for a small fee). Several on-site water spigots around camp but NO dump station.
- Location = 5/5
Camping here is worth it for the location alone. You are right in the middle of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with easy access to the scenic trail and wildlife all around (we saw buffalo and wild turkeys in camp every day!). Nights are dark and gorgeous (zero light pollution) and it’s intensely quiet and relaxing. Nearby Medora has a small grocery, coffee shop, restaurants and other attractions.
- Pet Friendliness = 4/5
Decent spot for doggie. There is lots of space to hang in camp, easy walking around camp and some very limited “unofficial” trails down to the river. Only ding is that this is a National Park so doggie cannot go on any of the official trails inside the park. For hiking I recommend the excellent Maah Daah Hey Trail which offers over 100 miles of dog-friendly hiking just outside of the park. Catch it at Sully Creek State Park.
Overall Rating = 3.6
BONUS ALERT = Camp inside gorgeous Theodore Roosevelt National Park!
Summary: This is the only campground inside the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and it’s the perfect location to explore this fabulous park. It’s primitive (no hookups), fairly small (only 76 total sites of which 12 are walk-in tent sites) arranged into 2 main loops. Sites 1-39 on right side I call the “big loop” and sites 45-76 on the left side I call the “small loop”. Only the “big loop” (1-39) can support larger rigs and only a portion of these pull-throughs are big enough for “beast size”. The other loop (45-76) is only for smaller rigs and far too tight/small for anything larger (don’t even think about driving your big rig through here!). All sites are hard-packed gravel with very nice separation and lovely, spacious sitting areas. Lots of trees and vegetation all-around which offers great privacy, but can also make for a tight squeeze with the rig (beware of branches & trees both driving through the campground and getting into your site). A few sites have nice views of the valley basin too. Biggest ding is site levelness which can vary from nicely flat to quite un-level. Also for dog-owners, since this is a National Park dogs cannot go on any of the trails so you’ll have to keep pooch in camp or on the small”unofficial” trails leading to the river. However location cannot be beat. You are right in the middle of the park and it’s wonderfully quiet and peaceful. Easy access to everything there is to see, great privacy, lots of wildlife at your doorstep (we saw bison and wild turkeys every day in camp!) and only ~6 miles from the cute little town of Medora. If you’re coming in a larger rig during summer consider reserving or coming very early (between 9-9:30AM) to get a site. Only half the sites are first-come-first-serve and they fill up FAST. We really enjoyed the campground and would certainly stay here again.
Extra Info: Limited cell signal here. Only 1 bar ATT 4G and 1 bar Verizon LTE, but Verizon was stable/usable the whole time we were here. 76 sites, half of which are reservable online, while the rest are first-come-first-serve. Sites cost $14/night in summer season (half price with Senior Pass). NO hookups (primitive camping only). On-site water spigots, but NO dump station.
Extra, Extra Info – OTHER CAMPING: There are actually several other campgrounds outside the National Park:
- Private Full Hookup Parks – There are two private parks near town Medora Campground and Red Trail Campground. Both are tightly packed, but they do provide full hookups for those who want or need them. Price $34-$40/night.
- Sully Creek State Park – This State Park just south of town provides primitive camping on a large, open field. Very basic camping here and it’s popular with horses, but it’s quiet and the views are fabulous. Also, it’s right next to the amazing Maah Daah Hey Trail and seems less busy than the NP campground. We would definitely consider staying here, especially for the easy access to dog-friendly hiking. Price $12/night.