I don’t want to start every national park post with a “this was better than I expected” mantra, but the Badlands blew me away. We only booked a day exploring this well-known national park because we thought the Black Hills/Custer State Park (our final destination) would be more our pace – but it was all so magical, and I can’t wait to go back.
The Badlands used to be where you went as a kid – Mount Rushmore was close, Wall Drug was every child’s dream and it was just close enough that my parents wouldn’t go nuts in the car. Today, I look at the Badlands as one of the Midwest’s best national parks – here’s a few of my favorite things to do:
Big Badlands Overlook. When we first entered the park in the northeast entrance, one of the first stops was the Big Badlands overlook. I loved having this as our first look at the Badlands, and I’d highly recommend going this way. It’s a good first look at the park.
Seeing the wildlife. We pulled up next to crazy amounts of prairie dogs and bighorn sheep, antelopes and buffalo.
Yellow Mounds. While the hills are all relatively the same color, the yellow mounds give a cool rainbow effect.
We did a couple very short hikes. Door Trail was an easy 0.75 of a mile hike that leads to a break in the Badlands Wall known as “the Door” opening into a view of the Badlands. Window Trail was an even shorter 0.25 of a mile hike to a “window” opening looking out over a canyon. I know, super clever trail names. We didn’t do a long hike because of timing, but we did venture over to Notch Trail, one of the most highly-rated hikes in the Badlands. At only 1.5 miles, Notch gives you the best views while also challenging you. Part of the hike includes climbing up (and down) a very steep ladder and wandering through some narrow passages.
I always seem to end my reflections on national parks with a sentiment that many explorers would kill me for saying. However, I always find my favorite part is just driving through the parks to take it all in. Going off the beaten path is always an adventure, but I built this blog on the foundation of taking advantage of the time you do have. Taking in the whole park isn’t realistic for everyone – for us, we only had a few hours, so we made the most of the time we had.
If you’re looking for the perfect weekend in South Dakota, look no further than the Badlands.
Don’t Miss: Driving through Loop Road, Big Badlands overlook, finding some wildlife.
If You Have Time: Hikes! Door, Window and Notch trails.
Skip: This is the first time I could genuinely not think of a “skip” action. That’s how much I loved it!