7 Reasons to Visit Badlands National Park

7 Reasons You Have to Visit Badlands National Park

If you’re looking for something “different” to see, new terrain to hike, or want a mix of the two, look no further than a visit to Badlands National Park. Tucked away in South Dakota, this park truly is a hidden gem. Rich in history, culture, wildlife and scenery there’s something here for everyone.

1. Badlands Landscape

Clay formations at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Clay buttes and spires create awe inspiring focal points. The row of spires aptly named “The Wall”, stretches nearly 60 miles across the landscape! This magical landscape is still being carved and changed by the rains that slowly wash away the sediments that make up these formations.

There’s more than just buttes and spires. The yellow mounds are one of the most colorful places in the park and they’re worth a visit.

2. The Notch Trail

log ladder on the Notch trail at Badlands National Park
Photo by South Dakota Tourism

One of the most popular hiking trails in Badlands National Park. This trail leads you on a fun climb up (and back down!) a log ladder. You’ll see views across the park and of the White River Valley.  The climb is easy, but if you have a pack, it’s a little easier to come back down the ladder facing forward.

3. Sunset Over Badlands National Park

Sunsets at Badlands are magical, and there’s no shortage of places to view it. This picture was taken near the visitor center. The top places to view a sunset at Badlands National Park are:

  • Pinnacles Overlook
  • Conata Basin Overlook
  • Bigfoot Pass Picnic Area
  • Norbeck Pass Area
  • Castle Trail- Head east for sunset to see the changing lights and colors, head west for sunrise.

4. Wildlife

Mountain goat seen while visiting badlands national park

Bison, goats, prairie dogs, pronghorns. Many animals call the Badlands home and you have a great chance of seeing them. You have to drive a bit past the scenic areas of Badlands, past the buttes and spires and into prairie. . The animals come very close to the road, by that, I mean, they actually go INTO the roads. 

Prairie dog town is great. There are so many of the cute little things running around chatting away with their friends. If you attempt to get out of your vehicle for a photo, be warned, there are bison bombs all over, even at the edge of the road.

5. History of the Badlands

bombing range at badlands national park
Image from National Park Service

Did you know that Badlands National Park used to be a bombing range? In 1942, a 534 square mile rectangle was used for bombing and gunnery practice during World War II. The range, though cordoned off now, is still there in the South Unit of the park.

6. Chance of Finding Artifacts

You can find arrowheads and other artifacts just by wandering the park. Please note, the park asks that you leave the artifact where you found it and note the location so you can report your findings to the rangers. 

7. Badlands National Park Won’t Be There Forever

Due to it’s soft nature, the clay that makes up the Badlands formations is slowly eroding away. According to the National Park Service, the buttes erode about one inch a year. Don’t fret though, it won’t be gone in our lifetime. Evidence shows they have around 500,000 years of life left. The park is at it’s perceived half-life, as about 500,000 years ago, the rain started to erode away the flat flood plain that is now the beautiful jagged landscape we see today.