The Badlands sneak up on you, open prairie soon becomes a vast, jumbled, otherworldly terrain of wilderness.
Only the starkest elements of nature are here. The wind, the rock, the sky. It feels timeless, vast, wild, and free. My eyes take in it all in, the air on my skin feels eerie and comforting at the same time.
“No words of mine can describe these Bad Lands. One set of buttes, with cones and minarets, gives place in the next mile to natural freaks of different variety never dreamed of by mortal man…The painter’s whole palette is in one bluff.” – Frederick Remington, American Landscape Painter and Explorer
This place encompasses so much beauty that more than 160 square miles of it have been reserved for inclusion and protection in our National Parks System.
Visually, the Badlands are at their most picturesque early or late in the day when the deep shadows define their forms. The play of light and color on the buttes, spires and valleys gives way to endless angles to explore. At night, the sky opens up to a star filled dream.
The rugged beauty of the Badlands formations draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and camel once roamed here.
Located in southwestern South Dakota, The Badlands was established as a National Monument in 1939 and was later designated as a National Park in 1978.
The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets live today.
There are 8 marked hiking trails, ranging from 0.25 to 10 mile round trip hikes, with most rated easy to moderate.
Horseback riding is also permitted anywhere in the park except on marked trails, roads and highways.
The south half of the park is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Easiest access is from Interstate 90 at exits 131 (Cactus Flat) or 110 (Wall). Drive south to park entrance stations.
The Badlands Loop Road (Hwy 240) is a 27 miles meander through the formations accessed from either entrance. Badlands National Park is approximately 75 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota.
What to Expect:
Badlands National Park experiences weather extremes – summers can reach 100 F while winters may be well below freezing. Be prepared for any weather with layers of clothing, sunscreen, water, and sturdy walking shoes. A series of short trails (400 yards to 10 miles round trip) are located near park headquarters at Cedar Pass, just two miles from the town of Interior.
An Entrance Fee is collected year round.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is open 362 days per year – closed on New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The White River Visitor Center is open seasonally, call for more information. Park remains open year-round.
The park has paved and unpaved roads. Check at the visitor center or entrance station for information on road conditions before setting out on unpaved roads.
Pets are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry.
For more information:
Badlands National Park
25216 Ben Reifel Road
Interior, SD 57750