While I was in South Dakota, I decided that I had to visit Badlands National Park. I ended up falling in love with the US National Parks on this trip and ended up seeing 10 and changing my plans. They are well set up, with such helpful staff to advise you the best things to see and do in the time you have there.
I had just visited Sioux Falls and got the greyhound bus across to Rapid City. I had wanted to rent a car and drive but it was going to cost an extra $900 to pick the car up in Sioux Falls and drop it off in Rapid City!! To rent it in Rapid City for 2 days was less than $100.
Badlands National Park is around 60 miles from Rapid City back towards Sioux Fall, so it takes about an hour to drive and I entered at the Pinnacles entrance as it was the nearest to Rapid City. It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park, though if you are planning to visit a few of the parks it might be worth buying the annual pass for $80 which is what I did. Visiting 10 parks on this trip I certainly saved a lot of money!!
It was originally declared a National Monument on 4 March 1929, before becoming the 39th National Park in November 1978. It covers an area of 242,756 acres with a large grass prairie and rocks eroded over time to create pinnacles and spires.
For 11,000 years this area was used by the native americans to hunt. The prairie’s were home to many animals with the views from the higher rocks making it an ideal hunting ground.
The area is also popular with fossil hunters, with fossils from 77 species being found in the White River which flows through the park.
I decided first to drive part of the Sage Creek Rim Road to see the views, it is a gravel track so you are unable to drive fast along it, but it’s worth doing part of it to see your first views of the park. The road is 25.5 miles but I only did the first 4 miles to see these views.
I then decided to drive along the Badlands Loop Road, it is 22 miles long and winds through the park and takes you to the Northeast entrance where the visitors centre is located.
The views along this road are amazing and there are quite a few overlooks and viewpoints to stop at to admire the views through the valley.
The colouring of the different layers of rock is stunning to see as you drive through the valley.
Once you get near the visitors centre there are also a few trails that you can walk, with the castle trail being the longest. Unfortunately as I had to be back in Rapid City to catch a bus to Bozeman for the next part of my trip, I never had time to do any of the walks.
There are quite a few nice boardwalk walks that are short, the Window Trail, Door Trail, Notch Trail and you also walk down into the prairie.
You could easily spend a full day exploring Badlands National Park but if you are short of time then it would take you half a day to do the trip I did.
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