The Badlands National Park is a very unique place and one of my favorite places in the U.S. The scenery of layered rock formations spreads over 240,000 acres of land. The rocks have multiple different colors and layers, which shows how much history is hidden in them. If you are lucky, you will be able to spot some buffalo as well.
Some people say that it’s enough to drive through the Badlands National Park in one day and then continue further on the road. I can just say, that we enjoyed every hour of our three-day stop. After a long drive from the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, we were happy to pitch our tent without breaking camp the next day and (most importantly) to get active again. At this point, we’ve been driving for three days – all the way through the less populated middle of the country.
As we wanted to save some money, we decided to camp right outside the National Park. The “Badlands Interior Campground” has a Motel as well as a wonderful campground. Shade is very rare at this place, but you will enjoy one of the greatest views from the campsites!
Activities in the Badlands National Park
Once you are all set, you probably want to explore the Badlands National Park. You can hike some hiking trails, but unfortunately, there isn’t much hiking in this place. We did the short hikes in the East of the park all in one morning (Window, Door, Notch, and Cliff Trail).
We skipped the long Castle and Medicine Root Trail because in summer it is way too hot between 10 am and 3 pm. You feel as if you were in the desert. That’s no good hiking weather.
When we were there, we had no clue that the Badlands National Park also has a Night Sky Program. We joined these programs in Glacier and Olympic National Park and it was fantastic! Sometimes they offer multiple telescopes, where you can look through. The people with the telescopes will point out certain star constellations, other galaxies, planets or dying stars to you. The pollution in most national parks is very low so that you can actually see millions of stars in the Milky Way.
Ancient rocks of the Badlands National Park
The Badlands National Park is stretched pretty widely so that you have to drive around to see everything.
On the main road, you will see multiple lookouts where you can stop and read infomercial signs. They explain, how these layered rocks evolved and that they found a lot of ancient fossils on these grounds.
The different color shades of the rocks – gray, yellow, red and brown – tell stories. Stories about different climate zones and massive volcano eruptions millions of years ago.
Half of the Badlands National Park is covered in these rocks and the other half is prairie and grasslands. If you are lucky you will see bison in the West of the park.
Another animal, that you will see for sure, is the prairie dog. These little fellas are everywhere! They stick their cute head out of their houses or stand on meadows or plains to observe the surroundings.
Make sure you are not getting too close to mothers because they are very protective. You will hear it when you get too close – they scream shrilly.
Quick Info & Links
Where: South Dakota
Entrance fee: $20 per car (valid 7 days), motorcycles $10
Badlands National Park – official website
Camping inside the national park
Costs for camping: $22 non-electrical, $37 electrical
Camping outside the National Park: $18 per tent at Badlands Interior Campground
Lodging inside the National Park
Hotels outside the Badlands National Park