Badlands National Park is a stunning landscape located in southwestern South Dakota. It contains 244,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and rugged badlands filled with canyons, buttes, pinnacles, and spires. The park also features the world’s richest fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch that are over 35 million years old.

Situated in the southwestern region of South Dakota, United States, Badlands is north of the town of Wall and west of Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Visitors can experience breathtaking views while exploring the rugged landscape on foot or by touring on a horse or mountain bike. There is much to do at the park including hiking, camping, wildlife watching, birding, photography, stargazing, fishing, and organized ranger programs.

When is Badlands open?

Badlands National Park is open year-round, seven days a week.

  • During the summer months (May 1st to October 31st), the park is open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm daily.
  • During the winter months (November 1st to April 30th) from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm daily.
  • The Badlands Visitor Center is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily.

It’s recommended not to plan any activities after dusk due to the presence of large predators such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes. Visitors should also be aware that much of the roadways in the park are unpaved and can become quite dusty during times of dry weather.

What are the Badlands?

The Badlands are a place of beauty and intrigue where visitors can hike, camp or take a scenic drive to explore this remarkable environment. There are two main highlights within the park that draw visitors from all over the world;

  1. The amazing fossil beds which contain specimens from three different periods of time.
  2. Wildlife native to the area like bighorn sheep, bison, pronghorns, mule deer and more.

Where is the Badlands National Park?

Badlands National Park is located in western South Dakota, just east of the Black Hills and west of the Missouri River. Established as a national park in 1978, Badlands is known for its stunningly rugged terrain which features steep canyons, rolling hills, and buttes that rise above the Great Plains.

Badlands National Park Map

map of badlands national park

Badlands National Park Lodging

Choose from camping, RV parks, cabins or hotels located nearby or within the park. For those seeking a more rustic experience, there are multiple campgrounds with sites. RV parks provide full hookups with water, electricity and sewer services.

If you’re looking for something more comfortable, there are several hotels in the surrounding towns of Wall and Interior that will be sure to provide you with a relaxing stay after your adventures in the park. Cabins are also available within the park providing guests with a cozy retreat complete with modern amenities.

Cabins within Badlands

Imagine spending your days exploring Badlands National Park and then coming back each night to a cozy cabin with all the comforts of home. Enjoy modern amenities like hot tubs, fireplaces, kitchens, and more. Book a cabin at Badlands NP using this link.

Things to do in Badlands

There is no shortage of outdoor recreational activities to do at Badlands. The dramatic landscape makes for amazing athletic adventures. Below we share the top 10 things to do in the Badlands National Park.

Top 10 Things to do in the Badlands National Park

1. Pinnacles Overlook

These giant spires of sedimentary rock rise up to 150 feet above the surrounding landscape. The pinnacles have been carved over thousands of years by wind and rain. These rocky structures are also home to some fascinating fossils dating back millions of years. Some of the fossilized remains embedded in the rocks include leaves, plants, and other life forms that existed during prehistoric times.

2. Yellow Hills

The iconic yellow hills of the Badlands National Park are a spectacular sight to behold. The unique sedimentary rock found in this area creates a striking contrast against the blue sky. These rolling hills are made up of various materials including claystone, sandstone, siltstone, and shale all compressed into distinct layers over millions of years. Uniquely colored by iron oxide deposits, the shades range from deep reds to bright yellows that provide a captivating backdrop for visitors who come here from near and far.

Along with their mesmerizing colors, these hills also form ideal habitats for various plants and animals native to this area. Small mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels, skunks, and foxes can often be seen scurrying about while birds like hawks soar overhead. Numerous species of trees dot the landscape including ponderosa pine and western juniper that provide food for foraging wildlife and nesting birds alike.

3. Hiking the Notch Trail

A popular and scenic hike for visitors to take, the Notch Trail is around 1.5 miles long roundtrip. It’s fairly easy to walk and moderate enough for most hikers. At the end of the Notch Trail hikers will get views of the White River Valley.

All in all, The Notch Trail is a beautiful hike that offers something for everyone – stunning views, fascinating geology and an abundance of wildlife. No wonder it is one of Badlands National Park’s best attractions.

4. Sage Creek Rim Road

The Sage Creek Rim Road is a 27-mile scenic drive that meanders through the rolling badlands hills. Along the drive you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of sandstone formations, wildflowers, lush grasslands, and wildlife such as bighorn sheep, antelope, bison and more.

In addition to its incredible scenery, there are also many places to pull off and explore along the road. Visitors can take a short hikes from one of the many trails just off the road. While open year-round, the road can be dangerous during winter months when snow and ice make parts of it impassable.

5. Visit Prairie Dog Town in Badlands

Take an off-road adventure through this rugged landscape and get up close with prairie dogs as they scurry around their burrows. Enjoy breathtaking views from atop one of the nearby buttes or explore some of the numerous fossils scattered among the rocks around Sage Creek Rim Road. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling outdoor experience or just want to relax and take in nature’s beauty, Prairie Dog Town has something for everyone!6. Visit Prairie Dog Town in Badlands

6. Deer Haven Wilderness Area in Badlands National Park

An oasis of beauty and serenity located in the heart of a rugged landscape. The area is covered with a mixture of grasses, shrubs, and trees which attract a variety of wildlife. Visitors can explore the area on foot or by horseback. For those looking to stay a while, camping is allowed with multiple designated sites located throughout the wilderness.

7. Visit the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center

Explore the history and impact of one of the Cold War’s most influential weapons. Located just outside Badlands National Park, The Minuteman Missile Visitor Center provides an informative and interactive overview of the nation’s nuclear deterrence program from 1961 to 1991. Through a series of engaging exhibits, visitors can explore how this program played a key role in ending the Cold War. Guests will also have the opportunity to participate in daily guided tours which take them through Delta-09 Launch Control Facility, providing a unique and educational experience into this important part of our nation’s history.

8. Hike the Door Trail

The Door Trail in Badlands National Park is one of the park’s most iconic attractions and a must-see for any visitor. The trail gives hikers the chance to explore some of the unique geologic formations that make up the park, including its sharp pinnacles and spires known as “the Doors”. These fascinating rock formations were created millions of years ago by wind, rain, and ice.

9. Fossil Exhibit Trail

An incredible journey for paleontology lovers of all ages. This trail takes visitors through the park’s rich fossil beds, providing an opportunity to observe fossils that are millions of years old. Along the way, guests can view a variety of ancient creatures like saber-toothed cats, giant armadillos, and even an early ancestor of modern horses. You can also find informational signs along the trail that provide facts and stories about these ancient species. For those looking for hands-on exploration, there are plenty of spots to search for fossils and collect them as souvenirs.

10. View Big Horn Sheep

These majestic creatures inhabit the park’s rugged terrain and can be seen grazing on its hillsides or roaming through its valleys. The big horn sheep are one of the park’s most popular residents. The males of the species are easily identified by their large curving horns, which they grow up to 30 inches long! Big horn sheep also have unique facial features like over-sized noses and ears, allowing them to detect predators from great distances.

Best time to visit Badlands

I have heard that during the winter the park gets heavy snow and many of the roads are closed. And, with summertime getting very hot, I suggest going in early spring or fall for the best weather. I personally think that between October and November are best months to visit Badlands National Park. However, if you want to play it safe and not take the risk on snow, go in the late summer. The weather will be warmer and you might even see more wildlife.

If you have recently visited the Badlands and have any updates on the park you’d like to share, please email us at admin [at] theklubb [dot] com. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it makes your vacation to Badlands unforgettable.