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If you’re ever crossing through South Dakota, don’t sleep on the chance to visit Badlands NP. This 244,000 acre National Park is home to some of the most unique geological landscapes and a wide array of plants and wildlife. Whether you are looking for a hiking, educational, or overnight adventure, Badlands NP will not disappoint.
Why We Went To Badlands NP
Our original plan was to head straight from Sioux Falls, SD to Mount Rushmore. To be honest, neither of us had heard about Badlands NP before so we never considered it as a potential stop. About halfway through the trip, in the midst of the hundreds of Wall Drug signs, we started to see signs for the park. When we saw the exit for the park was right off of the I-90 an hour out from our destination, we decided to make the short detour.
Much like our first impression of Pipestone National Monument, we were slightly weary of what we had gotten ourselves into. Driving in, the park doesn’t look too terribly exciting. We thought it was just a little stretch of rock wall, but quickly learned that wasn’t the case.
At the gate, we were greeted with a pamphlet for the park and a flyer to beware of bison. This was the first park we had ever been to that warned of wildlife attacking so it was a little intimidating. Nevertheless, we were excited to dive in and see what these “badlands” were about.
Exploring The Badlands
Since this wasn’t a planned stop, we knew we weren’t staying long. We stopped at the first parking lot, between Notch and Door Trail, and headed out. At this point, it still wasn’t wildly impressive. We stopped for a few photos and then followed a group of people up a little towpath. That’s when all the hype in making this a national park became apparent.
Just beyond the rocks was one of the most exceptional views in all of South Dakota. According to the National Park Service, The Badlands were first formed by years and years (I’m talking millions here) of deposition. Layers of various types of sediment have been cemented together to form beautifully banded rocks. What once was flat has since been carved out due to erosion. This erosion displays the various layers of rock in really unique shapes.
Hiking Door Trail
Seeing this view got us SUPER pumped. We decided to stay a wee bit longer and take on the 0.75 mile Door Trail. To get here, follow the boardwalk path to an opening in the rock. There are yellow markers to guide you along the path. It is easy, but keep in mind it there are drop offs in the rock so don’t let the kids get too far ahead.
Even if you are just popping by to say you’ve been there, I’d highly recommend tackling this short trail. It was really exciting for the kids to touch the different layers of rocks and learn about sediment and deposition. Although there aren’t many informational signs on the trail, the pamphlet given at the beginning of the park is packed full of history and information.
Preparing For Your Trip
Since there are numerous trails here, prep as you normally would for a hiking trip. Make sure everyone is wearing durable shoes because there is potential to step on cacti. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen for each person in your party. For younger kids, pack a hat to keep their head protected from the sun.
Be aware of the changing climate and wildlife. Even if you arrive on a perfectly sunny day, the weather at Badlands NP known to change quickly and with little to no notice. Packing a few raincoats or umbrellas could be beneficial. Also, if you see a wild animal, please respect the parks policy to stay 100 feet away. There are rules for a reason, stay safe and be vigilant.
Don’t Plan On Staying Long?
If you are just popping by like we did, I recommend stopping by Wall Drug. It really is a cute stop that can suck you in for hours. There are great exhibits for kids and shops for parents. We fueled up on lunch here before we completed the last hour long leg of our trip to Mount Rushmore.
Let me know if you have ever heard of, been to, or planning on going to visit Badlands NP. I would love to chat with you about your experiences. As always, don’t forget to follow me on social media and subscribe to my email list to stay up to date on blog posts! Thank you for reading another story of our life in Our Happy Place 🙂