Badlands National Park
South Dakota, USA
South Dakota is home to much of America’s farmland and some of its most famous landmarks. Badlands National Park in southwest South Dakota is a sensational park filled with grasslands and one of the world’s richest fossil beds!
Badlands National Park protects 244,000 acres of land. The land was once home to the Lakota people. They hunted here for 11,000 years, camping in small valleys, close to fresh water. However, the water was sparse, the temperatures were extreme and the land provided little shade. The Lakota people called the land ‘mako sica’ translating to ‘land bad.’ Later, French-Canadian fur hunters called it ‘bad lands to travel through.’
Today, you can visit the park by car, hike some of its many trails, and camp overnight. The most popular way to see the park is by driving the Bandlands Loop Road. There are two entrances to the park. From the east, you will enter through the Pinnacles Entrance and from the west, you’ll enter through the Northeast Entrance. The Loop Road will take you through the thick of the Badlands, providing you with incredible views, plenty of pull offs, and opportunity to admire the dramatic landscape.
Some of the stopping points along the Loop Road offer small hiking trails, so you can enjoy a short walk along a wooded platform! Be sure to stay hydrated and watch out for rattlesnakes, there are many signs alerting visitors of their presence. But don’t let your fear of rattlesnakes stop you from enjoying the beautiful park! You will also have the chance view prairie dogs, bison, bighorn sheep, and if you’re really lucky, a black-footed ferret!
If you are up for small detour, take a drive on Sage Creek Rim Road near the Pinnacles Entrance. This short drive is great if you entered from the Northeast Entrance, as you can turn left onto Sage Creek Rim Road and continue out of the park toward Wall Drug. The scenic drive offers sensational views of grasslands and will almost guarantee that you see bison, prairie dogs and more of the local wildlife!
Badlands National Park offers many hiking trails, varying in length and difficulty. Visit the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to learn more about the trails before you jump into any hike! If you’re planning to camp in the park, be prepared to see the night sky at its finest. On any night, you will see more than 7,000 stars and a clear view of the Milky Way!
A fee is required to enter the park, but it is included in the National Parks and Federal Lands Pass.
Visit the National Parks Service official website to help plan your visit!