A complete guide to Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Everything you need to know about Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park in South Dakota is one of the most beautiful, yet underrated, national parks in the United States. It's not as well-known as some of the other popular parks, but it has a lot to offer to the adventurous traveler.
From the towering buttes and steep canyons to the wide-open grasslands and hidden caves, Badlands National Park has something for everyone. In this comprehensive guide, we'll discuss what to see, where to go and what to expect when visiting this stunning park. Get ready for an unforgettable experience!
About Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is a stunning park located in South Dakota. The park offers visitors spectacular landscapes and rugged beauty, with expansive prairies, jagged peaks, and colourful canyons. Visitors can explore the dramatic terrain and observe the diverse wildlife of the region, including bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs and bighorn sheep.
The park also has an abundance of fossils, making it a great place for amateur and professional palaeontologists. Whether you’re an experienced explorer or a first-time visitor, Badlands National Park promises an unforgettable experience!
Location and How to Get There
Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota in the United States. The nearest major city is Rapid City, which is about an hour drive away from the park. You can reach the park by car, plane or bus. By car, take exit 131 off Interstate 90 and drive south on US-240.
The closest airport is located in Rapid City, but there are also airports in other nearby towns such as Sioux Falls and Aberdeen. If you are coming by bus, there are several services that offer transport to the park from Rapid City and other cities in South Dakota.
Weather and when to visit
The Badlands National Park experiences extreme weather conditions, with temperatures ranging from -20 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.
While the park is open all year round, summertime brings the most comfortable temperatures. Spring and fall are the best times to view wildflowers and wildlife. To avoid crowds, visit during the weekdays and avoid holidays. Be sure to check the park’s website for weather updates and advisories before your trip.
What to Expect
Visiting Badlands National Park can be a unique and exciting experience. Prepare to witness diverse landscapes and wildlife, as well as gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. The area is composed of different rock formations and open grasslands, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes for your adventure.
Be aware that temperatures can change drastically, so come prepared with plenty of layers and sunscreen. You may even want to bring binoculars for wildlife viewing. Wildlife is abundant in the park, so watch out for bison, pronghorn, and mule deer. The night sky is also spectacular, so don’t forget to look up for an unforgettable stargazing experience.
What to See
Badlands Loop Road
The Badlands Loop Road is an 18-mile paved road that cuts through the heart of the park, offering spectacular views of the rugged terrain. Along the way, visitors can see eroded buttes, spires, and pinnacles formed from sedimentary rocks.
Badlands Wilderness Area
This 64,000-acre area of the park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and prairie dogs. Hiking is permitted in the wilderness area and visitors can explore the unique formations and canyon walls.
Saddle Pass Trail
This trail takes visitors through the mixed grass prairie up to a pass with sweeping views of the rugged badlands. Visitors can look for wildflowers, cacti, and lizards along the way.
The Badlands Wall
The Wall is a 30-mile long cliff formation in the northern part of the park. Visitors can hike along the cliff and take in stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Big Badlands Overlook
Big Badlands Overlook provides a dramatic view of the White River Valley and the surrounding buttes. It’s a great spot to watch the sunrise or sunset over the park.
Roberts Prairie Dog Town
Roberts Prairie Dog Town is home to thousands of prairie dogs that can be seen scurrying around their burrows. It’s a great place to observe wildlife and take photographs.
Badlands National Park visitor centres
Badlands National Park has two visitor centres - the White River Visitor Centre and the Ben Reifel Visitor Centre. The White River Visitor Centre is located in the south of the park, just off the highway and is the larger of the two visitor centres.
Here you can pick up information about the park, attend educational programs and find out more about the area's wildlife and history.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Centre is located in the north of the park and is much smaller, but still contains information about the park, an interpretive centre and a small gift shop.
More things to do near Badlands National Park
Visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Located just a few miles from Badlands National Park, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a must-see attraction in South Dakota. It offers visitors an opportunity to explore a Cold War era missile silo, as well as learn about the impact this technology had on the world during that time.
Enjoy a scenic drive along the Badlands Loop Road
The Badlands Loop Road is a scenic drive that takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in South Dakota. You’ll get to see rock formations, wildlife, and picturesque canyons as you make your way around the loop.
Explore the Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is an iconic landmark that honors the famous Oglala Lakota warrior. You can take a guided tour of the mountain carving, as well as visit the museum, gift shop, and bookstore located on site.
Go horseback riding at Red Shirt Table
Red Shirt Table is located just outside of Badlands National Park and offers visitors a unique way to explore the area - by horseback! Whether you’re an experienced rider or a beginner, Red Shirt Table has a variety of trails and rides to choose from.
Tips for visiting
Plan ahead - Make sure to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly as the weather can change quickly in Badlands National Park.
Dress appropriately - Wear layers, comfortable shoes, and bring along a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Stay on the trails - The terrain is rough and rugged, so it is important to stay on the marked trails.
Pack water - Bring plenty of water, as temperatures can be extreme during the summer months.
Keep your distance - Wild animals are common in the park so it is important to keep your distance and not disturb them.
Take pictures - You’ll be rewarded with stunning views so don’t forget to take pictures to capture the moment!