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The Great Northern Route

Apart from the likeable small city of Grand Forks, at the state’s eastern border, much of North Dakota’s landscape lives up to those nondescript clichés from childhood family trips: It hems and rolls and yawns forever. If you tire of watching dancing golden wheat mirages, you can exercise your finger channel-surfing on the radio. It’s a long, flat, and (dare we say it?) dull drive, divided four-lane almost all the way, with little but endless horizontal plains and the occasional frontier fortress to keep you company.

The state has done what it can to help out bored travelers by eliminating roadside mowing to encourage wildflowers for most of the trip across, opting for native prairie and a potential refuge for wildlife—and roadkill. That said, the 300 mi (485 km) across the state do hold a few points of interest, including Fort Union, an evocative outpost of early fur-trapping explorers; popular Devils Lake recreational areas; and the geographical center of North America, marked by a stone monument in the town of Rugby.

Map of the Great Northern through North Dakota.
Map of the Great Northern through North Dakota.

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