The raw, wild beauty of this landscape captivates visitors from all over the world. The numerous geological deposits and fossils give an insight into times long past. Back then, saber-toothed tigers roamed the wilderness hungry. Today, the prairie landscape is inhabited by bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and the black-footed ferret.
Badlands National Park protects grassy plains and canyons carved by wind and water. One of the most spectacular sights here is what is known as “The Wall”: a 160 km long rock formation of tiered cliffs cutting through the arid grassy landscape. This huge natural barrier has been shaped by rainfall into bizarre sculptures and jagged rock formations. In between, the penetrating water has created cavities. Even today you can still see the natural erosion caused by wind and water. In some places up to 3 cm of rock is eroded every year.
Location and Size
According to 800zipcodes, Badlands National Park is located in the southwestern part of the state of South Dakota, approximately 120 km east of Rapid City. The total size of the park is around 985 km².
Interstate 90 (I-90) runs north of the park, traveling west take Exit 131 and follow the signs south for approximately 5 km (3 miles) to the northeast entrance.
If traveling east on I-90, take Exit 110 at Wall, South Dakota. Continue south following the signs 11 km (7 miles) to the Pinnacles entrance.
State Highway US-44 provides an alternate, scenic route to the park and intersects with Highway 377 in the town of Interior. Continue 3 km (2 miles) on Hwy 377 to the Interior entrance.
Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) is approximately 110 km (70 miles) west of the park on Highway 44, approximately an hour’s drive. There is a car rental office at the airport.
Greyhound Lines, Inc. offers limited bus service to Rapid City. Rental cars are available for rent in Rapid City.
There is no public transport to the park.
Opening Hours and Seasons
Badlands National Park is open year-round.
Located at Park Headquarters, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center features many interactive exhibits about the cultural history, ecology and paleontology of the White River Badlands, among other things.
In winter it is open from 08:00 to 16:00, from mid-April to mid-May from 08:00 to 17:00. In the summer, the visitor center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. From the beginning of September to the end of October from 08:00 to 17:00.
Visitor Center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years!
Park admission is valid for all visitors for up to 7 days. If arriving by private car, van, SUV, or RV, admission is USD 25 per car. For individuals entering the park on foot or bicycle, the fee is USD 12 (children 16 and under are free). With a motorbike, admission also costs USD 15 and is also valid for up to 7 days.
Park Shuttle Service
No shuttle service is offered. A private vehicle is required to explore Badlands National Park.
Two campgrounds are available within the park. Cedar Pass Campground is adjacent to the Ben Reichel Visitor Center and has 96 sites. The very basic Sage Creek Primitive Campground is only accessible via a gravel road and has no water connection.
The weather in Badlands National Park varies greatly. The summers are hot and dry – sometimes with violent thunderstorms and hailstorms. The rainiest month is June. The winter months, on the other hand, are cold and snowy.
|Average temperatures in Badland National Park in °C|
Good gear, clothing appropriate to the season and sound planning are essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay.
Start your visit to Badlands National Park with a stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, where you can purchase postcards, books and informational material in addition to an informative film presentation.
- Drive the Loop Road (Highway 240) to explore the northern part of the park. The road is two lanes and paved.
- Join a park ranger-led tour. Details are available on site at the Visitor Center.
- Watch the sunrise and sunset from one of the many vantage points within the park.
- Visit the White River Visitor Center, home to members of the Oglala Sioux tribe.
- Go on a hike (see examples below).
This easy 1.2 km loop trail takes you through the scenery of Badlands National Park to a breach of the Badlands Wall.
This easy 400m loop trail leads to a natural ‘window’ in the Badlands Wall overlooking an eroded canyon.
The moderate and longest trail in the park begins at the Door and Window Park area and runs 8 km (5 miles) to the Fossil Exhibit Trail. The trail is relatively flat and passes along some Badlands formations. The total of 16 km can be covered in about 5 hours, there and back.
Fossil Exhibit Trail
This easy trail features fossil replicas and exhibits of now-extinct creatures that once inhabited the area. The almost half a kilometer long path can be covered in 20 minutes.