The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

Hiking and things to do in Badlands National Park

When you imagine national parks in the United States, places like Yosemite, Zion, and Yellowstone often come to mind. But Badlands National Park in South Dakota is a place of extraordinary beauty. There is so much to do in Badlands National Park and it took our breath away. We had seen the forest lands in Alberta, but I must admit that the poor lands in South Dakota took it to a whole new level. We will show you everything so that you do not miss sights and things to see to make the most of your trip to this beautiful destination.

On 244,000 acres there is a lot of coverage area. With large horned sheep, prairie dogs and bison roaming the prairie landscape with mixed grass, you should stop on every trip to South Dakota. From wildlife watching to scenic views, there are many hikes in the Badlands National Park, but it can also be visited by car.

Hiking in Badlands National Park

There are two sections to the Badlands National Park. The North is the most popular part, managed by the Office of National Parks. It has the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway and the best hiking trails in Badlands National Park.

The south is ruled by the people of Lakota Sioux and there are no hiking trails or park services. The roads are not paved and it is much stronger.

Skip directly to the best tourism in the Badlands National Park here. Featured Wall hotel: Cedar Pass Lodge – Located in Wall, Cedar Pass Lodge offers cabins complete with refrigerators, coffee makers and microwaves. If you are not yet on the road, we recommend renting a car in Rapid City to explore the Badlands National Park. You can compare rental prices on If you don’t have a car, you can book this private tour from Rapid City – It includes a tour of the National Park with a stop at Wall Drugs in Wall, a stop at the ghost town of Scenic and Minuteman National Historic Site Missile.

Facts about Badlands National Park

Facts about Badlands National Park

Located in the Black Hills area of ​​South Dakota, this magnificent region was first turned into a national park on November 10, 1978. It was created to preserve nature. Home to a rich concentration of fossils, picturesque towers and peaks, it is no wonder that it is a national monument from 1929.

Badlands National Park got its name from the people of Lakota, who called it “mako sica” or “land that is bad”. Due to the lack of water, dry lands and extreme terrain, it was difficult for them to cross. It is its extreme terrain that has made it such a stunning stop on any American trip. Today, visitors enjoy the Badlands NP for fossil discovery (please do not take any home with you), hiking and photography.

Things to do in Badlands National Park

Located in and an area known as mixed grass prairie, meaning it is located between high grass prairie in the east and short grass in the west, Badlands is the largest mixed grass prairie in the United States.

Driving on Badlands Loop Road – Badlands Wall

Badlands wall cycle path

Start your visit by driving the Badlands Loop Road. It’s a beautiful scenic drive with the most stunning views of the Badlands wall. This is a long line of strong rock peaks. There are 16 specific scenic views along this 39-mile route. You could ride it for an hour, but with a view of peaks and canyons, towers and thighs, you will eventually spend a whole day stopping at the many exits.

Ben Reifel Visitor Center

On this download are the trails for some of the best hikes in Badlands National Park. Be sure to stop by the National Park Service to get maps and get all the information you need to explore the Badlands National Park.

Hiking in Badlands National Park

Hiking in Badlands National Park

There are several easy hikes in Badlands National Park that can be explored in a short amount of time. Hiking in the Badlands NP varies from a few minutes to a few hours. Here are a few to check.

Notch Trail

things to do in Badlands National Park South Dakota

Notch Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Badlands National Park. Only 2.5 km long is a fun hike, which includes descending the stairs and a high ridge, offering stunning views of the White River Valley. It can be located by driving to the parking area of ​​doors and windows.

Exhibition area of ​​fossils

If you only have a short time and want a quick hike, the fossil exhibit area has a 0.25-mile trail. This is an accessible area with exposed fossils and markers on the interactive display.

Castle path

badlands national park hiking castle trail and dave

If you are looking for a longer and more challenging hike, The Castle Trail is the longest hike in the Badlands National Park, a 16 km return trip, and from the fossil exhibition area you can continue to the Castle Trail. This hike will take about 6 hours, so be prepared for a long day. It takes you through views of the prairies, the peaks and offers the chance to notice the wildlife of the Bighorn sheep. This hike is relatively flat and is an easy transition.

In fact, there are different ways to cross the Castle Trail, as it connects to various hiking trails in the Badlands. You can jump on the trail and make a shorter route from the window and door parking area at the head of the Notch Trail, or even combine longer trails to create the desired length.

Rock shelf path

The Cliff Shelf Trail is another short cycle in the Badlands NP that takes you on a footpath (with stairs so it’s not as accessible). It is only 0.8 miles (0.8 km) and this easy walk will take you through the Juniiper forest. When the lake on the trail has water, you can even see a bighorn hanging on the hole.

Sage Creek Wilderness Area

If you want to get off the beaten path, it’s possible to cover a 22-mile long trail from the Sage Creek Desert area. If you are camping at the Sage Creek campsite, this is a great entrance to the Sage Creek Desert area, where you can follow marked trails away from the crowds. Although unmarked, navigation is easy.

Don’t miss things in Badlands National Park

Pinnacles are neglected

Pinnacles overlooking Badlands National Park

You can’t visit Badlands National Park without stopping at Pinnacles Overlook. This is the most popular review in the park and with good reason! With stunning views of the Sage Creek area, it allows visitors to see the layers of rock formations formed over the centuries. It is only .2 miles (.32 km) this is popular not only because of the exceptional view, but also how easy it is. A set of wooden steps leads to the view.

The yellow mounds are neglected

Yellow mounds overlooking the Badlands National Park

One of the most unique features of Badlands National Park is its yellow mounds. In the Yellow Mounds with a view you will see the rolling mounds of paleozoles, which means fossil soil. The layers weathered by the soil changed color to create these yellow hills.

Stop at the pharmacy on the wall

wall pharmacy south dakota

A very strange roadside attraction near Badlands National Park is the Wall Drug tourist attraction. It all started with the idea of ​​distributing free ice water to attract tired passengers and today it has grown to attract 2 million visitors a year! Conveniently located in Wall, South Dakota, Wall Drugs is a great base from which to explore this vibrant city. A staple since 1931, this family business is a great place to stop eating and browse the cheeky displays and shops. If it is only 12 km.

Roberts Prairie Dog Town and Wildlife

roberts prairie dog city south dakota

We saw an abundance of prairie dogs scurrying around Badlands National Park. In fact, there are so many that there is a stop where you can go out and see them at Roberts Prairie Dog Town. As you get closer, you will see dozens of small heads sticking out of the sand.

You also have the opportunity to see Buffallo, Big Horn Sheep and even coyotes. Now where’s Bugs Bunny? This park really reminded me of the animated film Looney Toons Bugs Bunny and Wile E-Coyote.

Hiking tips Badlands National Park

Tourist tips for Badlands National Park

Entrance fee for the park is $ 30 per vehicle and this is valid for 7 days from purchase. It works 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Buy an annual pass for national parks to enter this and other national parks if you plan to spend time outdoors in 2021. In addition to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, there is also the White River Visitor Center. Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes. The terrain is uneven and there are obstacles for crossing and climbing, including stairs. Pack sunscreen and water – temperatures can vary and be quite cool in the morning with extreme heat in the afternoon. If you visit in May or June, apply layers as it may rain. You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner at Cedar Pass Restaurant. This is the only restaurant in the park, so bring your own snacks and water. You can grab a meal at Wall Drugs before entering the park. Watch the films “Dancing with Wolves” and “Thunder Heart”, both of which were partially shot in Badlands National Park. We went to Badlands National Park for both sunrise and sunset and it was a great time to capture the shadows and textures of the wall.

Where to stay near Badlands National Park

Where to stay near Badlands National Park

Like many national parks, if you are camping, you can appreciate the park much better. But if you travel by road, there are hotels near Badlands.

Wall, South Dakota

There are not many luxury hotels near the Badlands, but there are major roadside motels in Wall Town that are ideal for visiting the National Park.

Cedar Pass Lodge – Located in Wall, Cedar Pass Lodge offers cabins complete with refrigerators, coffee makers and microwaves. Best Western Plains Motel – A well-equipped hotel near the park entrance, with a special pet park.

Fast city

If you are making day trips from Rapid City, Badlands National Park is just an hour away. You can easily drive to visit the park and since the pass is good for 7 days, you can take a few days of excursions.

Rushmore Hotel and Suites is located in the heart of the historic district, within walking distance of popular attractions such as the Presidential Walk and Main Street. Canyon Lake Resort – If you want to feel out of town, Canyon Lake Resort is nestled at the foot of the Black Hills and an excellent choice.

And that’s all you need to know (at least what we know) to visit the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Will you be traveling this summer? Where to?