North Dakota has some truly random roadside attractions. But the Enchanted Highway is something special.
It begins with the World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture and ends with dinner or an overnight stay at a a castle on the border of the badlands.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried. And it’s totally worth a pilgrimage to see the sculptures in person.
Where is The Enchanted Highway?
You’ll find The Enchanted Highway just off I-94 in western North Dakota. It begins at the Gladstone exit between Medora and Dickinson and runs 32 miles to the tiny town of Regent. You’ll find seven oversized sculptures rising up out of the prairie in between.
The first sculpture you’ll see is “Geese in Flight.” It towers 110 feet high atop a hill to claim the aforementioned title in the Guinness Book of Word Records.
Who created The Enchanted Highway?
Self-taught sculptor, visionary and folk artist Gary Greff had no art training to speak of when he first picked up a welding torch. But that didn’t stop him from conjuring up eye-popping sculptures from discarded oil drums, metal pipes, old boats and any other intriguing items he could get his hands on.
The initial goal was to get people off the interstate and into his tiny town of Regent. Eventually, Gary hopes to fill in the space between both cities with even more art. (In fact, one is in the works right now.)
But each sculpture can take years to complete and Gary raises the money himself. So progress cruises along at its own pace.
What will I see on The Enchanted Highway
You’ll spot seven different sculptures along the 32-mile route. Some are solid and colorful, others are airy and minimalistic.
They include a tin family, an homage to former North Dakota resident Teddy Roosevelt and oversized grasshoppers. This is a remote location, so the art holds pride of place against an endless prairie sky.
It’s worth taking the time to listen to a brief story about each stop on the Talking Trail. Just use the signs to listen onsite or click on the link to listen at home if a North Dakota road trip isn’t in your immediate future.
When you reach the end, play the whirligig sculpture outside the Enchanted Highway Gift Shop. Gary himself will probably be behind the counter, serving up ice cream and encouraging you to sign the guest book, as thousands of people from all over the world have done before you.
If you need a more substantial snack or a place to crash — there are picnic spots near each sculpture, but no food for sale along the route — try The Enchanted Castle. The former school has been transformed into the quirkiest restaurant, hotel and medieval tavern in North Dakota.
In my section of the Midwest Road Trip Adventures travel guide, I grouped The Enchanted Highway with The Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway, which runs from Mandan to Dickinson, since they both emphasize small towns and backroad travel and are united by a love of kitsch (and the occasional oversized animal). But many travelers detour from Medora and Dickinson specifically to reveal in the folksy weirdness of this attraction.
What about you?
What do you love about The Enchanted Highway?
Which sculpture is your favorite?
What public art do you love?
Where else should stop to eat or explore when we’re in the neighborhood?
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