LivingTravelBadlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

It is known as “The Wall,” a natural barrier across the dry plains of South Dakota that stretches for hundreds of miles. Created by the forces of water, carving incredible pinnacles and ravines, The Wall and its cliffs have been transformed over the past half a million years. The Badlands Wall may not be the typical attraction for some tourists, but the Badlands scenery is a sight to behold.


The Wall is just one of the highlights of the South Dakota National Park. In fact, it looks like a backdrop for bison, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. Visitors feel a truly Western experience, from the hot, dry air to the fossils scattered on the ground. Badlands is a stunning park that allows all visitors to escape and relax in a completely different world.


Badlands National Park consists of nearly 244,000 acres of eroded hills, pinnacles, and spiers along with the largest and most protected mixed-grass prairie in the U.S. Of these, 64,000 acres have been designated as Official Wilderness and include some highly important. Sage Creek Wilderness is the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America. Additionally, the Stronghold Unit is managed jointly with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and includes the 1890 Ghost Dance sites.

Established as a Badlands National Monument in 1939, the area was redesignated a National Park in 1978. The area contains the world’s richest Oligocene-era fossil beds, dating from 23 to 35 million years ago.

When to visit

The park is open and a pleasure to visit all year round. Although temperatures can reach 100 ° F, summer is still the most popular time to visit. Still, the Badlands remains one of the least traveled parks in the US If you really want to avoid the crowds, plan a trip during the spring or fall. Winter can be very cold, but accumulation of snow is rare.

Get there

The most convenient airport is in Rapid City. (Look for flights) The park is about 75 miles east of Rapid City, very doable as a day trip. From I-90 at S. Dak. 240, the park is just 3 miles south. If traveling from Kadoka, travel west for 27 miles.

Fees / Permits

There is an entrance fee for the Badlands National Park. The prices of the 7-day passes vary according to your mode of transportation: private non-commercial vehicles: $ 15; Individual (walk, bike) – $ 7; Motorcycle – $ 10.

Visitors can also purchase the Badlands Annual Pass for $ 30 which allows free entry for one year. All other national park passes can also be used.

Main attractions

The Wall – Try Big Badlands Overlook for a spectacular view from above.

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail – Short, half a mile, and steep, this trail takes visitors through an incredible microenvironment in the badlands.

Fossil Exhibition Trail: This paved trail shows a dense area with fossils; casts of some are shown along the way.

Pinnacles Lookouts – Incredible views of the Badlands Wilderness and Bighorn Sheep.

Sheep Mountain Table – A grassy table dotted with yuccas. If you go to the juniper at the end of the trail, you will be surrounded by an impressive collection of rock spiers and pinnacles.

Fortress Table: Getting to this attraction involves a fair amount of driving and there is a high probability of getting lost. But the reward is a chance to stand where a Sioux group performed the Ghost Dance for the last time.


Two camps are located within the park, both with 14-day limits. Cedar Pass and Sage Creek are open year-round and fill on a first-come, first-served basis. Heavy snowfall can close them in the winter, but these campgrounds are rarely filled to capacity. Cedar Pass costs $ 10 a night, while Sage Creek, a more primitive site, is free.

Inside the park, Cedar Pass Lodge is open from mid-April through October. Badlands Inn is another option offering 18 affordable rooms.

Outside of the park there are many hotels, motels and inns available. American Bison Inn, located in Wall, offers 47 units. The inn is equipped with air conditioning and a swimming pool. A Best Western and Econo Lodge are also available.

Areas of interest outside the park

Custer State Park – Located just south of Mount Rushmore, this state park is only 58 miles away from Badlands National Park. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, fishing, chuckwagon dinners, and jeep rides to see bison. Contact 605-773-3391 for more information.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial – Keystone, SD is home to one of the most famous national monuments in the US The colossal faces of Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln look out over the Black Hills. It is just 25 miles from Wind Cave National Park and 60 miles from Badlands National Park.

Wind Cave National Park – A little further afield, 144 miles from Badlands National Park, Wind Cave is an enchanting national park with so much to offer below the surface. Activities include hiking, field camping, horseback riding, guided cave tours, and wildlife viewing. Contact 605-745-4600 for more information.

Contact information

25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750
Phone: 605-433-5361

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