Badlands National Park Travel Guide

Sign at the entrance to the Badlands National Park in South DakotaSign at the entrance to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, near Rapid City and Mount Rushmore Memorial Park, and features sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires surrounded by a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem.

Situated in the the Northern Great Plains and named Mako Sica by the Lakota people, Badlands National Park has 244,000 acres of spectacular landscapes, native mixed grass prairie, a large variety of native wildlife, amazing fossils, wonderful skyscapes, and compelling human history.

The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including Bighorn Sheep, bobcats, badgers, Pronghorn Sheep, porcupines, prairie dogs, bison, mule deer and many others.

Skeletons of three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats are among the many fossilized species found in the park. 

What to Do at the Badlands

Hiking, backpacking, camping, picnicking, bird watching, nighttime stargazing, and photography are popular pursuits within the park.

Popular with all visitors to the park is the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is at the southeastern tip of the loop, next to Cedar Pass Lodge. Ranger-guided programs and hikes are offered.

Spend a day, or more, and enjoy and explore Crater Lake National Park!

The spectacular landscape of Badlands National Park
The spectacular landscape of Badlands National Park

 

 

Driving the Badlands Loop on our recent trip to the Badlands National Park
Driving the Badlands Loop on our recent trip to the Badlands National Park

 

Lodging Options near the Badlands National Park

 

Lodging in Rapid City

Lodging in Hill City

Lodging in Wall

Lodging in Custer

How to Get to the Badlands

Badlands National Park is located 75 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota.

Stopping to enjoy the open spaces at Badlands National ParkStopping to enjoy the open spaces at Badlands National Park

Interstate 90 (I-90) is located directly north of the park and provides access to the Highway 240, the Badlands Loop Road.

For those traveling west on I-90, take Exit 131 (Interior) and follow the signs directing vehicles south approximately three miles to the Northeast Entrance. For those traveling east on I-90, take Exit 110 at Wall, South Dakota. Follow signs directing vehicles south approximately seven miles to the Pinnacles Entrance.

State Highway 44 provides an alternate, scenic access to the park and intersects Highway 377 in the town of Interior. Follow 377 two miles north to the Interior Entrance.

The Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road, accessed from Interstate 90, is a two-lane, paved surface that takes you through the North Unit of the park.

 

The Sage Creek Rim Road (590) is a gravel road that takes you along the north rim of the Badlands Wilderness Area. Road may be temporarily closed after heavy rain or snow.

The Sheep Mountain Table Road is four miles south of Scenic, SD on Pennington County Road 589. High clearance vehicles are recommended. The road is passable under dry conditions only, and impassable when wet or covered with snow.

The Weather at Badlands

The Badlands weather is variable and unpredictable with temperature extremes ranging from 116° F to -40° F. Summers are hot and dry with occasional violent thunderstorms. Hailstorms and occasional tornadoes can descend on the Badlands with sudden fury. Winters are typically cold with 12 to 24 inches of total snowfall.

Of the sixteen inches of annual precipitation, most falls during the warmer months. June is the wettest month, while December and January are the driest.

Sudden and dramatic weather changes are common. Visitors are urged to dress in layers and be prepared with hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and adequate water for hiking.

Map of Badlands National Park (Courtesy of NPS)

Map of Badlands National Park

 

 

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center in Badlands National Park
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center in Badlands National Park
Road tripping through Badlands National Park in south Dakota
Road tripping through Badlands National Park in south Dakota

Scenes around Badlands National Park

The Yellow Mounds Overlook at Badlands National Park
The Yellow Mounds Overlook at Badlands National Park
The yellow mounds at Badlands National Park
The yellow mounds at Badlands National Park
Trails at Badlands National Park: Door, Window, Notch and Castle
Trails at Badlands National Park: Door, Window, Notch and Castle
Varying colors of the grasses at Badlands National Park
Varying colors of the grasses at Badlands National Park
Colorful plant life at Badlands National Park on an overcast day in September, 2018
Colorful plant life at Badlands National Park on an overcast day in September, 2018
The 75-Million-Year Walk at Badlands National Park
The 75-million-year Walk at Badlands National Park
Bighorn Sheep in Badlands National Park
Bighorn Sheep in Badlands National Park
Prairie Dog in the Badlands National Park
Prairie Dog in the Badlands National Park
The intricate stone crevices and valleys in Badlands National Park
The intricate stone crevices and valleys in Badlands National Park
The solitude and beauty of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota
The solitude and beauty of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota

 


The Saddle Pass Trail Head on a foggy day at Badlands National Park in 2018
The Saddle Pass Trail Head on a foggy day at Badlands National Park in 2018
No crowds today! Seen here is the Castle Trail on a quiet, foggy day at the Badlands National Park in 2018
No crowds today! Seen here is the Castle Trail on a quiet, foggy day at the Badlands National Park in 2018
The Notch Trail Ladder at Badlands National Park
The Notch Trail Ladder at Badlands National Park


 

Interactive Map of the Badlands National Park Area

More Information about the Badlands

Badlands National Park official website at NPS

The address of the park is 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD. Phone 605.433.5361

 

Badlands National Park at TravelSouthDakota.com