South Dakota’s Badlands National Park is a geological wonder. Brochures describe the land with terms like buttes, spirals and rolling grassland. The truth is, you just have to see these 244,000 acres for yourself to appreciate this region. Not only is the scenery breathtaking, it’s also the largest protected prairie ecosystem in the National Park System and 37 million year old Oligocene epoch fossils have been uncovered here.
Whether you’re visiting the Badlands for a day trip, a stop on your cycling adventure, or a multi-day camping trip or on your Harley, you’ll find ways to enjoy the park. There’s everything from short walks to scenic viewing points, advanced hiking trails and everything in between. If you want to spend the night, there are two campgrounds in the park.
I’d love to spend more time in the Badlands, but in the meantime, here are few tips if you visit South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, and some fabulous photos my husband took during our recent excursion.
Have a variety of photo lenses ready. My husband and I were constantly switching between our wide and zoom lens due to the non-stop photo opportunities.
Bring water and sunscreen. Even if you’re only doing the scenic driving tour bring along plenty of water, especially in the summer. Plus, there are opportunities to learn about the geographical history and some, like the Fossil Exhibit Trail, are in direct sunlight.
Highway 240 Loop. This scenic drive takes about 60 minutes, but longer if you stop to take photos and enjoy the views. There is plenty of parking at the various stops.
Visit at the beginning and end of day. During our drive through the Badlands I kept saying, these rock colors must be extraordinary during sunrise and sunset. A quick search on the internet after arriving home proved I was correct.
Watch for wildlife. Sometimes blending with the landscape, coyote, bison, ferret, fox, bobcat, bighorn sheep and even porcupine call these lands home. Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes…
Sage Creek Rim Road to Robert’s Prairie Dog Town takes about 30 minutes and is a great spot for viewing wildlife. In fact, the moment we pulled in we were welcomed by a herd of antelope.
Stop in Wall. If you’re driving from Rapid City on Interstate 90 the town of Wall (home to the famous roadside attraction Wall Drug) is about seven miles from the Pinnacles entrance to Badlands National Park. You will see dozens, if not hundreds, of Wall Drug signs along I-90 regardless of which direction you’re coming from. My son particularly had fun watching for and reading the signs, especially the clever advertising phrases. Wall is a great place to stop for lunch, as there aren’t any restaurants in the park. There are also a number of fun photo-ops including an jackelope that kids and adults can sit on and a mini version of Mt. Rushmore.
There are a number of reasons to visit South Dakota and Badlands National Park should be on the top of your list. If you’ve already been, please share your tips or links to your posts and photos in the comments below. Thanks for sharing!