Badlands National Park Travel Guide

  • Badlands National Park
    Badlands National Park
    by meteorologist1
  • Fossil in the Badlands
    Fossil in the Badlands
    by meteorologist1
  • Prairie dog
    Prairie dog
    by meteorologist1

Badlands National Park Highlights

  • Pro
    Bwana_Brown profile photo

    Bwana_Brown says…

     Totally amazing scenery, and lots of it! 

  • Con
    paulscuba profile photo

    paulscuba says…

     Can be hot, 

  • In a nutshell
    HasTowelWillTravel profile photo

    HasTowelWillTravel says…

     The beauty of the moon wrapped up in rolling prairie grass 

Badlands National Park Things to Do

  • Backcountry Camping!

    In Badlands National Park, there are several campsites, but they also have the option where you can go backcountry camping--meaning you can set up a camp wherever you like in the park! I've never done this but I definitely plan to in the future, because it sounds adventurous and fun!There are a few guidelines of course--you must camp somewhere...

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  • Sage Creek Basin

    The last stop I toured was the Sage Creek Basin Overlook. It is just past the prairie dog town and is one of the better places to see Pronghorns.

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  • Prairie Dog Town

    Another popular and very fun place to stop and look in the badlands is the prairie dog town. Prairie dogs are highly social and live in small communities. You will frequently see one of the prairie dogs on the outer rim of the town watching the perimeter and "barking" a warning when danger approaches. A frequent visitor to these towns is the...

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  • Badlands Wilderness

    Here you can see more of the grassy tops of some of the buttes. Early settlers could not get their stock up onto the buttes so they waited until the grasses grew tall and then harvested it to feed their livestock.

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  • Ancient Hunters

    Archeologists have found strong evidence that this area was used extensively for hunting about 1000 years ago.

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  • Yellow Mounds

    There was once a shallow sea here. About 65 million years ago, this sea drained away and was replaced by a jungle. As the vegetation from the jungle died, chemicals from the plants produced a bright yellow soil. About 35 million years ago sediment from the west covered the yellow soil and the jungle revived. The jungle then produced the red soil...

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Badlands National Park Restaurants

  • Buffalo burgers and hot dogs

    If you are looking for a place to have a buffalo burger or buffalo hot dog, which is a typical food of the American West, Wall Drug, located just outside of Badlands National Park has it. This is a great place to stop on your way to or from the Badlands. Buffalo hot dogs were delicious! They do taste different than regular hot dogs.

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  • Free Ice Water and 5-Cent Coffee

    Excellent place to stop before or after visiting the Badlands. Wall Drug definitely feels like an oasis in the middle of nowhere. The food is excellent, including their pies. Free ice water and 5-cent coffee!

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  • Food Services In and Near the Park

    The only food service option inside the park is the Cedar Pass Lodge which is open in spring, summer and fall. The menu is limited during off-season; the best options are in nearby towns.

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  • Park Restaurant

    We were they during off season (October), thus, breakfast was a continental buffet - cold cereal, toast, bagels, hardboiled eggs, juice and coffee. Then, they only served breakfast and lunch. During the main season, there is a full menu and service through out the day. Simple, but filling and not expensive.

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  • on picnicing at the Badlands

    One of the things we liked best about Badlands National Park were the picnic shelters. The tables themselves were typical but they had a curved enclosure that not only protected you from sun from above but behind as well. These also provided some protection from the considerable winds that sweep through the Badlands. These were spread out over the...

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  • Picnic spot

    If you want to bring your own picnic meal to the North Unit of Badlands NP there are only two Picnic sites available for you - we missed the Conata site on unpaved Highway 509 about halfway along the Loop Road but we did manage to stop at the Bigfoot Pass Overlook site. It is quite a scenic spot, with views of both the flatlands below in one...

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Badlands National Park Nightlife

  • The evening sky

    by djwambeke Written Feb 14, 2006

    ... but that's part of the magic about the Badlands. You might hear coyote, owls, or any number of noises off in the distance.

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Badlands National Park Transportation

  • Driving to Badlands National Park

    To get to the Badlands National Park, drive along I-90 until you reach exit 110 or 131. Turn off onto the exit. This will take you to Highway 240 and the Badlands Loop Road. Enter the Badlands Loop Road to enter the park! If it sounds complicated, don't worry! It's actually very easy to find, as long as you follow the directions!

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  • Badlands is remote

    Badlands National Park is in very remote South Dakota, not a place that mass transit has really taken hold. With such a sparse population, it's not likely to anytime soon. Getting to Badlands National Park as well as getting around it is most easily accomplished in your own vehicle. We were driving around the national parks of the western US for...

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  • Drive yourself around

    We rented a small Nissan Vespa for our trip from Saskatchewan to South Dakota, and it served our needs quite well - other than the tendency to require quite a few stops for fuel. That was due to a combination of having a relatively small fuel tank and not knowing whether there would be any open gasoline stations in the small and sparse communities...

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Badlands National Park Warnings and Dangers

  • Bad Road

    If you're planning to enter the park through Red Shirt, going through the Stronghold section, make sure you have a 4 wheel drive. The road is really bad, and even impassible when wet. It's marked as 2, on the map. The road isn't even dirt, it's gravel. Not the sort of place you should take a compact car, like a Toyota Corolla. The road is only 20...

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  • Very, Very, Windy!

    I swear, this is the windiest place I've ever been. It took us an hour to set up our campsite, because the wind kept blowing our stuff away. We would be laying in our tent, and suddenly it would cave in on us. We mad the mistake of picking a campsite that was really exposed. We later went to the Pinnacles Overlook, and fossil beds, and there was a...

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  • Warning: prairie rattlesnakes on paths

    Warning! Do NOT think that just because you stick to the path that you are safe from rattlesnakes. We came across one right on the edge of the path. I walked within 2 feet of it and it never rattled or struck, and continued walking for about another 50 feet until we heard people yelling about a rattlesnake so we went back and discovered it right on...

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Badlands National Park Tourist Traps

  • A must-see tourist trap!

    It's a tourist trap, but I would say it's a must-see! Wall Drug just feels unique in many ways: Its location in the middle of nowhere, its free attractions providing many photo opportunities, its many interesting gift shops, its excellent food (from buffalo burgers to pies), and its overall western feel. Also, most importantly, there's free ice...

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  • Wall Drug!

    Oh Wall Drug with your oh-so-many alluring signs on the side of the road...why oh why are you such a disappointment!? For Miles and Miles around, even in wyoming, you will see signs pointing you in the direction of Wall Drug. You can't resist, you must go and see what all the fuss is about, but all you will find is a ridiculous, overpriced, over...

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  • Wall Drug

    Yeah, it's definitely a tourist trap. But it's still a FUN tourist trap, so don't blow it off, thinking it's not worth your while. There's a little bit of everything there, so stop in, soak it up, and enjoy!And like the billboard says, they really do have free ice water.

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Badlands National Park What to Pack

  • Things to take with you! Keep Safe.

    Things to Remember• Always carry water! Two quarts per person per two hour hike is recommended.• A hat and sunglasses are strongly encouraged, as well as rain gear since weatherconditions can change rapidly.• Wear sturdy boots or shoes to protect your feet from cactus spines.

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  • come prepared

    There are no marked extended trails in Badlands National Park. Any backpacking would be off trail and require great self-sufficiency so chances are you do not need your backpack. A small day pack is great for carrying snacks and much needed beverages in this arid climate. Sturdy hike shoes if tacking longer trails, otherwise comfortable walking...

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  • What to Bring to the Badlands

    Wear clothing and shoes that you don't mind getting dirty. The badlands can be dusty/dirty. After all, they're made of earth! If you are a careful person who likes to be ready for anything, then a first-aid kit may be a good thing to bring. Often there aren't other people in the same area that you are in, so if something happens, you may be on...

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Badlands National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

    This area of South Dakota had a significant involvement during the Cold War with the establishment of several launch control facilities of U.S. Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Be sure to stop by the visitor center off I-90, Exit 131, south on SD State Road 240 to learn all about this history. This is located right outside of Badlands...

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  • Bighorn Sheep in Badlands?

    I never expected to see Bighorn Sheep in the Badlands but the animal has been re-introduced as of 2004 with, being brought in from Taos, New Mexico. Eleven healthy lambs were born in 2009 and evidently they did pretty well in 2008 when we visited the park as we saw these two just off the Badlands Loop Road. Large males can be well over 300 pounds...

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  • See what all those signs are about

    There's no way you can drive through the area, and not be taken in by the signs for Wall Drug Store. This is just a few miles north of the park, and you should swing by to see what the fuss is all about. Basically, this is a huge souvienier complex that has grown out of a drug store that would draw travellers in with the promise of free ice water....

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Badlands National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • Fossil Exhibits Trail

    The Fossil Exhibits Trail is a 400 meter boardwalk trail that is wheelchair accessible. Be aware though that some of the trail is fairly steep so you may need some assistance. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, weather appropriate clothing, don't forget your camera!

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  • Saddle Pass Trail

    The Saddle Pass Trail is a short but very steep trail up the Badlands Wall that connects with other longer trails. Do not attempt this trail if you have health problems. The trailhead is a short distance down the Badlands Loop Road from the visitors center. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, weather appropriate...

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  • Cliff Shelf Trail

    This trail is a 100 meter boardwalk that is fully wheelchair accessible. It offers a great view of the bowl shaped Cliff Shelf which gets more rainfall and retains it better so it has a wider variety of vegetation and wildlife. The trailhead for this trail is about 1 mile north of the visitors center. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat,...

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Badlands National Park Favorites

  • Cute Prairie Dogs

    You will see a lot of prairie dogs in the Badlands, which includes a lot of grassland. These little animals form their own "towns" and can be spotted from the road side. Be sure to bring your binoculars to get a close look.

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  • Fossils in the Badlands

    See some fossils of ancient horses and deer-like creatures on display right on some of the trails in Badlands National Park. This area had a much different (warmer) climate and landscape in the past. It was very fascinating to learn about how the Badlands formed, so be sure to spend some time at the visitor center.

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  • Badlands National Park

    Like Death Valley, the Badlands can mislead you with its name. Sure there is much more inviting land in many places; but the Badlands supports a surprising variety of animal and plant life. Whatever the conditions, nature will adapt. The main part of the park for touring is the North Unit which is parallel to, and just south of, Interstate 90....

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Explore Deeper into Badlands National Park
The Notch Trail
Sports & Outdoors
The Window Trail
Sports & Outdoors
The Door Trail
Sports & Outdoors
Conata Basin
Things to Do
Homestead Overlook
Things to Do
Burns Basin
Things to Do
Prairie Wind Overlook
Things to Do
Panorama Point
Things to Do
Bigfoot Pass
Things to Do
Obey the Warning Signs
Warnings and Dangers
White River Valley Overlook
Things to Do
Fossil Exhibits
Things to Do
Badlands Oasis
Things to Do
Anatomy of the Badlands
Things to Do
Hiking Trails Near the Visitors Center
Things to Do
Big Badlands Overlook
Things to Do
Viewing the Wildlife
Things to Do
Flower
Things to Do
Badlands Loop Road
Things to Do
Picnic at the Park
Things to Do
Cedar Pass Lodge
Things to Do
Visitors Center Displays
Things to Do
Ben Reifel Visitors Center
Things to Do
Cliff Shelf Trail
Things to Do
Castle Trail
Things to Do
Heat and lack of water
Warnings and Dangers
Door Trail
Things to Do
Wildlife is dangerous
Warnings and Dangers
The Notch
Things to Do
Castle on the plains
Things to Do
Hiking the Castle Trail
Things to Do
if you have the time
Things to Do
a second glance
Favorites
chasing the spring comes to an end
Favorites
come for the glow
Favorites
there are hikes at Badlands
Things to Do
actually, Badlands are very colorful
Things to Do
Badlands Loop Road
Things to Do
Hiking: Fossil Loop Trail
Things to Do
Hiking: Medicine Root Trail
Things to Do
Map of Badlands National Park

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