A day trip to Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USAWhile 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.

My first day in Rapid City, I visited Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial and the second day I decided to visit Badlands National Park.

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.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

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.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

The colouring of the different layers of rock is stunning to see as you drive through the valley.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

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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Read about my trip to Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA and what there is to see and do there

 

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19 thoughts on “A day trip to Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

  1. It looks like a beautiful place. I have visited a couple of National Parks in the US and so far, I really love them! Especially since each has a very different vibe. I will put this one on my list, your photos look great!

  2. I had read about Badlands National Park, but this post and the pictures really gives me an accurate idea of what to expect from the place. Mini Grand Canyon experience, then.

  3. What fascinating formations. I have this National Park on my list to explore. Thank you for sharing your trip details as it helps when planning a future trip for myself.

  4. I passed through Badlands on my road trip too, it was like being on a different planet and you captured that in your images. I too bought the annual National Park pass, I don’t think I managed to fit in 10 parks though, that’s an impressive stat. The price to pick up the hire car in Sioux Falls and drop it off in Rapid City is crazy, they mustn’t want people to do that for some reason.

  5. I love looking at these photos! The mountains/rocks with all the layers are spectacular and so unique. Must have been crazy seeing them right in front of your eyes! I’ve never been to any national parks in the US, I’ve only visited LA. How amazing is this area for fossils though?! 77 species is a lot – I can see the attraction for fossil hunters! Very cool, must feel a bit like going back in time there.

  6. I would love to see as many National Parks as you have! I like the tip on purchasing the annual pass if you are going to several parks. That will really save money. I hope to see Badlands National Park on a park tour around the country one day.

  7. Ever since I started traveling, I haven’t really had that attraction with US when it comes to visiting places. However, in recent times I have come across various articles just like this one. And as i keep reading your article, you have no idea how badly I want to be there. The place looks amazing from the pictures.

  8. Your photos are beautiful! My husband is a geologist and he loves this area. We visited several times when the kids were little and we were living nearby. I had forgotten how pretty it is! We need to take the kids back now that they are older so they can get a better appreciation for it!

  9. Every time I read a story about one of the national USA parks I want to go back and explore them. The Badlands National Park seems like a scene from a movie, the rocks have amazing colored layers. It must get so hot on a day without clouds.

  10. Spectacular views. Pinned in case I ever get the chance to go. You’ve managed to fit in 10 National Parks on your trip that’s some achievement!

  11. Definitely trying to plan a road trip to hit the Badlands (as well as the earlier parks you wrote about a few weeks ago) this fall. I will save your info as reference. The Badlands are absolutely gorgeous.

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