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Early pioneers were awestruck moving from the prairies to variegated cliffs of what is now known as Badlands National Park. At first glance, these treeless, seemingly endless spires, pinnacles and ravines appear hostile, earning their name of “bad lands.” However, today’s safe access lets you explore the beauty of this geologic wonder.
Hiking paths range from short, easy Window Trail and boardwalk Door Trail at canyon level to moderate and strenuous trails up the Badlands Wall. Hike both areas for varied perspectives of looking up to and down from fascinating rock formations.
Camp in the backcountry and enjoy clear, dark skies under the Milky Way Galaxy. Visit Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater to hear a ranger program and use telescopes to explore some of the 7,500 visible stars and a few planets.
Follow the short boardwalk along Fossil Exhibit Trail, with replicas of ancient creatures once inhabiting the area. In this park, one of the world’s richest fossil fields, you may discover unmarked fossil remains. If so, don’t do any digging, but flag the spot, fill out a visitor site report and notify a ranger.
Ancient rhinoceroses and saber-toothed cats once lived in these lands. In modern times, look for bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, bison and ferrets in the vast mixed-grass prairie area.
If you’ve visited before, return to enjoy the park again and look for changes in the striking landscape. Fragile parts of the terrain erode at a rate of 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) per year, exposing new fossils on a regular basis.
Drive or join a tour to appreciate the sights along the Badlands Loop Road. Each turn brings a new view of stratified rock and narrow gullies. The park is about an hour’s drive east of Rapid City. Combine your visit to see the natural beauty of Badlands National Park with a trip to Mount Rushmore National Monument where images of four great U.S. presidents are carved into a massive cliff.
Purchase a day pass to Badlands National Park or an interagency pass providing full-year access to all U.S. national parks with affordable adventures for every traveler.
Located in Pinnacles Entrance Badlands, this motel is within a 10-minute walk of National Grasslands Visitor Center, Wounded Knee Museum and Wall Drug. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is 6.9 mi (11.1 km) away.
This motel is located in Wall (Pinnacles Entrance Badlands), close to National Grasslands Visitor Center, Wounded Knee Museum and Wall Drug. Area attractions also include Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
Located in Pinnacles Entrance Badlands, this motel is within a 10-minute walk of National Grasslands Visitor Center, Wounded Knee Museum and Wall Drug. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is 6.8 mi (11 km) away.
Located in Pinnacles Entrance Badlands, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of National Grasslands Visitor Center, Wounded Knee Museum and Wall Drug. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is 6.9 mi (11 km) away.
Located in Northeast Entrance Badlands, this hotel is 2.4 mi (3.9 km) from Badlands Petrified Gardens and 2.6 mi (4.2 km) from Kadoka Lake. Chamberlain Pass is 9.8 mi (15.7 km) away.
This cabin is located in Interior (Northeast Entrance Badlands), close to Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead and Saddle Pass Trailhead.
Located in Northeast Entrance Badlands, this campsite is 2.3 mi (3.7 km) from Ben Reifel Visitor Center and 3 mi (4.8 km) from Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead. Saddle Pass Trailhead is 3.7 mi (6 km) away.