It’s hard to describe the landscape at Badlands, other than to say that it feels like you’re on another planet entirely. The vast expanse of rocky parkland feels less crowded and more peaceful, so you can really relax and enjoy the scenery. There is some interesting wildlife to be seen here too; While the bison are harder to find, there are lots of prairie dogs around… just remember to give them space and not feed them.
“One of the richest fossil beds in the world”
People are drawn to the rugged beauty of the Badlands National Park. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. 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. Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires surrounded by a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem. The mixed grass prairie is a transitional zone between the tall-grass prairie to the east and the short-grass prairie to the west. Learn about the numerous plants and animals that thrive here. The Badlands were formed by the geologic forces of deposition and erosion. Deposition of sediments began 69 million years ago when an ancient sea stretched across what is now the Great Plains. After the sea retreated, successive land environments, including rivers and flood plains, continued to deposit sediments. Although the major period of deposition ended 28 million years ago, significant erosion of the Badlands did not begin until a mere half a million years ago. Erosion continues to carve the Badlands buttes today. Eventually, the Badlands will completely erode away. One of the most complete fossil accumulations in North America is found within the park. The rocks and fossils preserve evidence of ancient ecosystems and give scientists clues about how early mammal species lived. 25% of Badlands National Park is a designated wilderness area. Established in 1976, the Badlands Wilderness Area consists of 64,144 acres of the largest prairie wilderness in the United States. Administered in two units, Sage Creek and Conata Basin, the area is open for backpacking and exploration. Filming location for both Dances with Wolves and Armageddon.
Absolutely astonishing. Take the scenic loop (HWY SD 240). You won't regret it.
LOVE THIS PLACE. Endless hiking, phenomenal landscape, and some of the best camping we have ever experienced. We camped two nights: the first at Sage Creek Campground. This was hands down the coolest camp ground. Bison were wandering RIGHT up to the tents, you could hear them grunting all night. The stars were AMAZING and coyotes were howling as you fell asleep. It was beyond magical. The second night was up at Cedar Pass right next to the visitors center. It was not so good, super busy, and very noisy. The showers were DISGUSTING. Save yourself the heart ache and head out to the primitive campgrounds!
If you have kids, it is a fun place. It is one of the few National Parks that just let you go wild and hike/climb where you want when you want how you want. Due to the 1 inch per year erosion you can climb all the formations looking for fossils.
Beautiful place. Lots of trails and stuff even a small hot springs to soak in. We stayed at the motel in the park I didn't like to motel no cell phone service at all. Just a plain jane room that's over priced.
An awesome park. With the colored rock formations, it looks like Mars! Definitely worth driving through at the very least. We stayed at the Sage Creek campground on the west end of the park, which is free, and is made of of a large clearing where you can pitch your tent anywhere (there's a bathroom, but no water, so pack that in). The campground is spacious enough for all, and has some shaded picnic tables that get claimed pretty quickly. The park is truly fantastic, and we saw tons of wildlife: buffalo, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, and massive spiders!
A do not miss on your trip. The badlands can be see from the comfort of your car or you can take the time to stop at various viewing points. Took us an extra hour on the way to Mount Rushmore that was well worth it. Absolutely breathtaking.
I've been to the Badlands several times, the best viewing is at sunrise and sunset the colors are amazing! And the temperatures during the summer are more forgiving early and late in the day. Summer months can get very hot midday. We were lucky we visited during overcast and rainy day this last trip it was perfect. We did a driving tour this time, but there are several hikes you can take if you have more time. We enjoyed a picnic in the park there are two different locations you can picnic they are shaded but on a hot day you probably wouldn't find much relief under them. Since there aren't too many trees around. Badlands is a must see stop on anyone's itinerary visiting the Black Hills.
I absolutely loved the Badlands. In comparison to Yellowstone, which I visited during this same trip, you have CONSTANTLY amazing views out the window in the Badlands, where has Yellowstone is awesome also but you drive more to get to the views.
I am so glad I had the opportunity to drive around the park at dusk, before going back the next morning. I quickly found out that wildlife is most visible and active in the mornings and at dusk. Watch out for snakes and be very careful in some places the overlooks are a bit crumbly and your life is worth more than a selfie.
Amazing. Totally worth the detour and the $15. Tons of overlooks and definitely go the dirt path to Walls. We saw pronghorn and buffalo!
This was about the coolest place I have ever been and I am quite well traveled. The formations were like none I have ever seen before. I was speechless. You can take in the Badlands just by driving through and viewing or you can get out and sit and stare, or climb to your hearts content. This is a place for young and old! They reminded me of the sand sculptures we used to make as kids by dripping wet sand from a squeeze bottle. Will definitely return someday!
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Badlands National Park
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Good for hiking, stargazing, and 4 more activities.
Credit Cards Accepted
- National park
Campground, Parking, Dining