Where is Medicine Rocks State Park
Located in the state's eastern region, Medicine Rocks State Park resides entirely inside the state of Montana. The state park’s most notable features are the “medicine rocks” which are a series of sandstone pillars that are similar to hoodoos. These rocks contain several examples of Native American influence and art. The park also contains campsites, hiking trails, and plenty of wildlife species. Ekalaka is the closest city to the state park. Medicine Rocks State Park is located 146 miles or a two hour and forty-five-minute drive north of Rapid City, South Dakota. The Park is also 236 miles (a three-and-a-half-hour drive) west of Bismarck, North Dakota. And it is 247 miles (a three hour and forty-five-minute drive) from Billings, Montana. The park is also located near several other outdoor recreation areas.
How Large is Medicine Rocks State Park
Medicine Rocks State Park covers a total of over 330 acres. The park’s geography mainly consists of sparse forest and rocky hill country. Some of the medicine rocks found throughout Medicine Rocks State Park are 60 to 80 feet tall. However, most are around 6 to 10 feet in height. These structures were carved over time by forces such as wind, dirt, sand, and rain, and now have produced numerous arches, caves, columns, pillars, and towers. Visitors arriving at Medicine Rocks State Park will have the opportunity to spot more than 100 rocks spires in the park. Many of these spires are decorated with examples of Native American rock art. The average elevation of the state park is 3,379 feet.
Medicine Rocks State Park Weather
The weather at Medicine Rocks State Park varies frequently throughout the year. In the summer, temperatures in the park average between 50- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, these temperatures cool considerably and average between 10- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest temperatures of the year arrive at the park in June, July, and August, and the coldest temperatures find the park in December and January. On average, Medicine Rocks State Park receives around 55 days of rain per year. These 55 days of rain accumulate to a yearly average of around 20 inches. Medicine Rocks State Park also experiences snowfall throughout every year. Snowfall in the park is normally heaviest in the winter months of December, January, and February. The park’s yearly snowfall totals average around 38 inches per year.
When did Medicine Rocks Become a State Park
Medicine Rocks State Park first became a state park in 1957. The state park was designed and pursued to protect the land and its cultural influence. Evidence found in the area shows that the land of Medicine Rocks State Park has supported various tribes of people for the past 11,000 years. In addition to the European man of today, the area now contained in the park also once supported several Plains Indian tribes including the Crow, Cheyenne, and Sioux. In the 1880’s, the land the park sits on was used as a working cattle farm. Today, Medicine Rocks State Park is managed and maintained by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Things to do in Medicine Rocks State Park
Medicine Rocks State Park contains a variety of interesting landmarks, geographic features, and outdoor experiences. Visitors traveling to the park can expect to be kept busy. The most popular adventures and activities found in Medicine Rocks State Park are listed and discussed in detail below.
Download Digital Maps & Research
In 1993, Medicine Rocks State Park became completely feeless. However, the park has also been listed as a “primitive park” since that date. This distinction means that no money will be put into Medicine Rocks State Park for improvements or for daily work like trash collection. Therefore, visitors planning to spend time in the park should research the park well before their trip. This way visitors will be prepared to stay in a park with no services.
Observe the Medicine Rocks
Obviously, the main feature of Medicine Rocks State Park is the namesake medicine rocks. These “rocks” are spread out throughout the park. Most of the near 100 spires found in the area appear in Medicine Rocks State Park. However, a few isolated examples that have hardly been impacted or vandalized resides on a farm in the nearby area.
Hike the Park’s Trails
The trails at Medicine Rocks State Park will provide visitors with a first-class introduction to the badlands of Montana. Specific trails at the park include The Sunset Loop, North Rock, and the Dalton trail. These three trails are all rather moderate in difficulty, and lead to several great vantage points found in the park. Visitors should look to bring a picnic late in the day on the Sunset Loop for an added bonus.
Wildlife Viewing in the Park
In addition to the effort to preserve the area’s medicine rocks and Native American rock art, Medicine Rocks State Park was also created to nurture the populations of wildlife that lived in the area. Species frequently spotted within Medicine Rocks State Park include mule deer, pronghorn, red foxes, coyotes, blue birds, prairie falcons, golden eagles, kestrels, Merriam’s wild turkeys, turkey vultures, and many more.
Camping in Medicine Rocks State Park
The campground at Medicine Rocks State Park includes 12 primitive sites spread out throughout the park. These sites are first come, first served, and frequently fill up during busy weekends and the peak summer season. In addition to the actual campsites the only other facilities found at Medicine Rocks State Park are tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and cold spring water accessible by hand pump.
When to Visit Medicine Rocks State Park
Medicine Rocks State Park is open year-round, and visitors can plan their trip to the park during any season. However, the best time to visit the state park is during the spring or summer season. These seasons offer a host of advantages. Primarily, the temperatures in the spring and summer in the park are ideal for outdoor recreation. Secondarily, during these months wildlife in the state park is widely more active than it is during the fall or winter. Snowfall also does not normally appear in the park in June, July, and August.
Must Have Items to Bring to Medicine Rocks State Park
Every trip outdoors requires a variety of outdoor equipment. A trip to Medicine Rocks State Park is no exception and, in some cases, it may require more equipment as the park’s services are virtually nonexistent. Visitors looking to visit the park should make sure they have the following essentials packed with them before leaving for the park.
Water, Meals, & High Energy Snacks
Since Medicine Rocks State Park is a primitive park that operates with no services, visitors planning to stay in the park will want to bring all of the water, meals, and snacks they will need during their trip with them to the park. The park’s campground does have a hand pump that allows visitors to access fresh spring water. However, visitors should play it safe and bring their own supplies of water just in case the pump isn't working, or something is wrong with the water supply. Visitors should also look to bring an assortment of high energy snacks that can provide them with a needed energy boost late in the day.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
The terrain of Medicine Rocks State Park can be quite treacherous in parts. The area is filled with rocky outcroppings and steep ravines. Visitors planning to hike in the park should look to bring a pair of sturdy hiking boots with them to the park. For added comfort and protection, visitors may also want to invest in a lightweight and waterproof pair of hiking boots.
Layers of Clothing
The temperatures of Medicine Rocks State Park can vary frequently during any season. Temperatures in the park also often dip significantly after nightfall. Campers and visitors looking to spend extended time in Medicine Rocks State Park should look to bring a series of layers with them to the park. These layers will come in handy as it gets colder or hotter in the park.
Wildlife Field Guides
The wildlife of Medicine Rocks State Park is abundant. Wildlife enthusiasts visiting the park should look to bring a North America or Montana specific wildlife field guide to them to the park. The best field guides are equipped with color photos and length species descriptions that make identification educational and enjoyable.
Camping in Medicine Rocks State Park requires a lot of camping equipment. The best way to remember all of your camping equipment when packing for the park is to create and utilize a camping checklist. This checklist can be checked during your initial packing and once again before leaving for the park.
Where to Stay in Medicine Rocks State Park
Visitors looking to stay in the borders of Medicine Rocks State Park will want to obtain one of the park’s 12 primitive campsites. These campsites operate on a first come, first serve basis. Visitors looking to obtain one of these campsites should arrive early in the day to ensure availability. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel in the nearby area can first check out options found in Ekalaka and its surrounding area. However, visitors will find more options the closer they drive to larger cities such as Rapid City, Bismarck, and Billings.
Food Near Medicine Rocks State Park
The closest food to Medicine Rocks State Park is located in the city of Ekalaka and its surrounding area. However, visitors looking for a larger culinary scene or something specific should make the drive to either Rapid City, South Dakota, Bismarck, North Dakota, or Billings, Montana. These three cities are much larger than Ekalaka and contain a larger variety of restaurants, bars, and grocery stores.
Airports Near Medicine Rocks State Park
The closest airport to Medicine Rocks State Park is located in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Rapid City Regional Airport is located 187 miles and a three hour and ten-minute drive south of the park. The next closest airport is located in Bismarck. The Bismarck Airport is located 240 miles and a three hour and thirty-minute drive northeast of Medicine Rocks State Park.