Visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota, SD

  • Post last modified:October 6, 2021
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Rock formations in Badlands NP.

Outlaws liked to hide in the rough terrain that today makes up the Badlands in South Dakota. And Native Americans and fur trappers understandingly so deemed the area bad land for the inhospitable terrain along with short water supply and extreme weather conditions. So the area used to be associated with something unpleasant. But nowadays the opposite is true. Badlands National Park in South Dakota is a great destination to visit with mysterious looking rock formations and fun wildlife.

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A rugged and rich Badlands National Park

The rugged beauty of Badlands National Park draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. These for example contain traces of ancient horses, cats and rhinos that once roamed here.

Huge rock formation in the Badlands.
Huge rock formations in the Badlands.

And the park’s 244,000 acres today protect a mixed terrain including grass prairie that bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets call their home.

As the park is packed with wildlife, visitors need to be very careful when coming by. The praire dogs might be pretty unharming, but the bison are huge animals and they don’t hesitate to cross the roads in the park.

Bison jam in Badlands National Park.
Bison jam in Badlands National Park.

Driving the loop road and beyond in Badlands NP

The most popular way to see Badlands is by driving the loop road, also called Badlands Scenic Byway, that goes through the park. It’s not really a loop by itself, if you don’t continue the drive outside the park.

Nevertheless, the Scenic Byway can be entered and exited from Interstate 90. And along the loop road there are plenty of overlooks where you have the opportunity to park your car and get out to get a closer look of the magnificent vistas.

Rock formations in Badlands NP.
Rock formations in Badlands NP.

To see even more of the park it’s a good idea to add some stretches that aren’t included in the loop. In the western end of the park Sage Creek Rim Road has some of the best overlooks of them all in Sage Creek Overlook and Hay Butte Overlook. And Roberts Prairie Dog Town along that same stretch is full of prairie dogs.

Praire dog in Robert´s Praire Dog Town.
An excited praire dog in Robert’s Praire Dog Town.

When to visit Badlands in South Dakota?

The park is so big that you can avoid crowds no matter when you visit. But, entrance stations, visitor centers and the roads can get busy during the peak time of the year during the summer season. Especially during the Sturgis Rally which takes place in South Dakota with frequently over 500,000 bikers joining in.

Those who aims to dodge the crowds preferably should visit either before our after the summer season. And generally throughout the year, the early riser will have the most space in the park.

Praire in Badlands National Park.
The praire in Badlands National Park.

Other things to do when you visit Badlands National Park

Mount Rushmore is uncontested when it comes to the most popular attraction to combine with a visit to Badlands National Park. There you can say hello to your old pals George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
The four presidents sculptured into the mountain side.

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