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Badlands national park travel guide – All things you need to know

Badlands National Park

If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure in the American Midwest, then look no further than Badlands National Park. Located in southwestern South Dakota, this unique destination is home to dramatic landscapes, incredible wildlife, and a rich history. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, here’s everything you need to know for an unforgettable trip to Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park

Badlands national park travel guide – All things you need to know

Getting There

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, just off of Interstate 90. The nearest airport is Rapid City Regional Airport, which is located about an hour away from the park. You can also fly into the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, which is about three hours away. From either airport, you can rent a car and drive to the park.

The best time to visit Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

The best time to visit Badlands National Park is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is warm and sunny. However, this is also the busiest time of year, so expect crowds and long lines. If you prefer cooler temperatures and fewer people, consider visiting in the spring or fall.

What to See and Do in Badlands National Park

There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Badlands National Park. Here are a few must-see attractions:

  1. Badlands Loop Road: This 31-mile scenic drive takes you through the heart of the park, showcasing some of the most stunning views of the Badlands.
  2. Fossil Exhibit Trail: This half-mile trail features interpretive exhibits that showcase the fossils and geology of the Badlands.
  3. Notch Trail: This 1.5-mile trail takes you to a breathtaking view of the Badlands from the top of a canyon.
  4. Sage Creek Rim Road: This 30-mile gravel road takes you to the northern section of the park, where you can see bison, pronghorns, and other wildlife.
  5. Badlands Wilderness Area: For a true backcountry experience, explore the park’s wilderness area, which offers hiking, camping, and backpacking opportunities.

Badlands National Park

Where to Stay

Badlands National Park offers a variety of lodging options, from campsites to cabins. Here are a few options:

  1. Cedar Pass Lodge: This lodge offers cabins, hotel rooms, and a campground, as well as a restaurant and gift shop.
  2. Sage Creek Campground: This primitive campground is located in the park’s wilderness area and offers stunning views of the Badlands.
  3. Badlands Interior Motel and Campground: This motel and campground is located just outside the park and offers affordable accommodations.

What to Pack

When visiting Badlands National Park, be sure to pack for the weather. Summer temperatures can reach into the 90s, while winter temperatures can drop below freezing. Here are a few essentials to bring:

  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • Layers of clothing, including a jacket and rain gear
  • Water bottle and snacks
  • Camera or smartphone for taking photos

Badlands National Park history

The history of Badlands National Park stretches back thousands of years. The park is located in the ancestral lands of several Native American tribes, including the Oglala Sioux, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. These tribes hunted bison and other wildlife in the area and used the natural resources of the Badlands for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

In the 1800s, European settlers began to move into the area, seeking land for farming and ranching. This led to conflict with the Native American tribes and the displacement of their communities. The U.S. Army established forts in the region to protect settlers and maintain order.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, paleontologists began to explore the Badlands, uncovering a wealth of fossils from ancient mammals, reptiles, and other creatures. These discoveries helped to shed light on the evolution of life on Earth and the history of the Badlands region.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began working on projects in the Badlands, including building roads, trails, and campgrounds. This work helped to create the infrastructure that makes the park accessible to visitors today.

In 1939, Badlands National Monument was established, protecting a portion of the Badlands region. The monument was expanded over the years, eventually becoming Badlands National Park in 1978. Today, the park is a popular destination for tourists from around the world, who come to explore its unique landscapes and learn about its rich history.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park entrance fee?

As of 2023, the entrance fee for Badlands National Park is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per person for visitors entering by foot or bicycle. The pass is valid for 7 days and allows entry to both the North Unit and the South Unit of the park. There are also annual passes available for $55, which allow for unlimited entry to all national parks and federal lands for one year. Active-duty military personnel and their dependents, as well as fourth-grade students and their families, can enter national parks for free with appropriate documentation. Additionally, seniors (62 and older) can purchase a lifetime pass for $80 that grants access to all national parks and federal recreational lands. It is always best to check the official website for the most up-to-date fees and pass information.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park campgrounds ?

Badlands National Park offers two campgrounds for visitors:

  1. Cedar Pass Campground: This campground is located near the Cedar Pass Lodge, in the heart of the park’s scenic Badlands Loop Road. The campground has 96 campsites, including some that can accommodate RVs up to 75 feet long. Amenities include flush toilets, potable water, a dump station, and a small store that sells firewood, ice, and other camping supplies. Reservations can be made online or by phone up to six months in advance.
  2. Sage Creek Campground: This campground is located in the park’s North Unit, about 15 miles from the Badlands Loop Road. It is a more primitive campground with 22 first-come, first-served campsites, and no water or electrical hookups. However, the campground offers stunning views of the Badlands and is a popular spot for wildlife viewing, including bison, bighorn sheep, and pronghorns. The campground has pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings.

Both campgrounds have a 14-day limit for camping, and fees vary depending on the campground and type of site. It’s important to note that during peak season, the campgrounds can fill up quickly, so it’s recommended to make reservations or arrive early to secure a campsite.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to South Dakota. With its unique landscapes, rich history, and incredible wildlife, it’s a place you won’t soon forget. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget!

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