Badlands National Park

South Dakota

Rising up out of the flatlands of the great plains, the Badlands occupy over 370 square miles of western South Dakota, surprising and fascinating visitors with its unique and alien landscape. Along with its iconic vistas of eroded buttes and pinnacles, the park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and bison.

According to the official park page, the weather at the Badlands defies simple characterization. It’s unpredictable and extreme, with temperatures ranging from -40 F to over 110 F. The park experiences hot, dry summers with occasional thunderstorms, but can also fall victim to sudden and ferocious tornadoes or hailstorms. In the winter, the park can see over 20 inches of snowfall.

Badlands National Park is just a few miles east of South Dakota’s famous Black Hills National Forest, a beautiful, tourism-driven landscape dotted with an abundance of quaint western towns. Immediately adjacent to the park, visitors can explore the small cities of Wall, Interior, and Scenic; South Dakota’s second-largest municipality, Rapid City, is just an hour northwest.

Travelers are drawn to the Badlands for its unique landscape, and frequently set out on foot to explore it better. Other common park activities include bicycling, backcountry camping, and stargazing. In fact, the park hosts an annual Astronomy Festival to help visitors celebrate and fully experience its uniquely dark skies. Along with this program, the rangers lead an abundance of interpretive and educational talks and guided hikes to help orient guests to the Badlands wilderness. For the latest details on upcoming park events, check out the park’s official calendar.

When visiting Badlands National Park, you’re participating in a long and storied history that stretches back further than any contemporary person can fully grasp. Thus, it’s important to pay respect to this ancient landscape and its stewards, and to do what we can to keep it alive and thriving for future generations. Learn about the indigenous history of Badlands National Park here.

National Park Sample Image
Weather
Spring 55-65 F
Summer 80-85 F
Fall 60-70 F
Winter 30-35 F
National Park Sample Image
Nearby Cities
Rapid City, SD
National Park Sample Image
Trip Planner
Use our FREE RV trip planner to begin customizing the perfect RV trip. Continue
National Park Sample Image

RV Resorts & Campsites in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park features two on-site front country campgrounds, but only one, Cedar Pass, can accommodate motorhomes and travel trailers more than 18 feet in total combined length. If you’re tent camping, you can take advantage of the park’s liberal backcountry policy, which allows backpackers to camp anywhere in the park so long as you’re at least a half mile from, and invisible to, park trails and roads.

Although Cedar Pass fills up quickly, RVers can also choose from a wide variety of off-site campgrounds, including both resort-style properties and simpler accommodations. Click here for more details on camping in Badlands National Park.

RV Rentals Near Badlands National Park

Nearby RV Rentals

National Park Sample Image

Hit the Trails

Along with the park’s designated hiking trails, visitors are also free to explore the area on foot as they see fit, as well as to backcountry camp nearly anywhere within the park boundaries. However, explorers should keep in mind the park’s tendency toward extreme weather, as well as the landscape’s strenuous difficulty in certain areas -- which is actually how it got its name in the first place.

The National Park Service recommends you carry two quarts of water per person per two hour hike, and also that you wear a hat and sunglasses. Sturdy boots are necessary both for ankle stability and to protect your feet from cactus spines, and always keep at least 100 yards’ distance from any wildlife you may encounter.

Below, find brief descriptions of the park’s demarcated hiking opportunities. For full details, visit the official park page.

Badlands National Park Trails

Castle Trail

Distance: 10 miles

Terrain: A moderate, but lengthy, hike through paradigmatic Badlands formations.

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

Distance: 0.5 mile loop

Terrain: Short, easy loop through a juniper forest, featuring a small pond and ample opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Door Trail

Distance: 0.75 miles

Terrain: Perhaps the most popular hike in the park, Door Trail starts out as an accessible, quarter-mile boardwalk before leading hikers into an open area of Badlands formations.

Fossil Exhibit Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles

Terrain: An easy and fully-accessible boardwalk allows visitors to learn more about the ancient animals that once roamed the area.

Medicine Root Loop Trail

Distance: 4 mile loop

Terrain: An easy-to-moderate loop trail through the park’s mixed grasslands. This trail offers little shade, so bring lots of sunscreen!

Notch Trail

Distance: 1.5 miles

Terrain: Although short, this trail features a moderate-to-strenuous -- but totally worthwhile -- climb into and up a canyon, ending in a “notch” with sweeping views of the White River Valley. This trail may not be appropriate for those with a fear of heights.

Saddle Pass Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles

Terrain: A short, but strenuous climb up the Badlands Wall for a view of the valley below.

Window Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles

Terrain: An easy, short hike leading to a natural window for a dramatic view of an eroded canyon.

Restaurants

What to Do at
Badlands National Park

You could easily spend all day watching the sun cast its playful shadows on the ominous Badlands canyons and spires… but at some point, you’re gonna need to eat. And while you’re at it, there’s a ton of other fun stuff to do in western South Dakota -- and if you have the time, you won’t want to miss it.

Here are our suggestions for what to see, eat, and do outside of the park property.

Restaurants

You’re officially in the wild west, so if you’re looking for a meaty meal, you won’t be disappointed -- but there are some lighter and more refined options out here, too.

Badlands Saloon and Grille

Type: Whether you’re after a fresh-cut steak or a heaping helping of pasta, this Wall joint’s got you covered. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks.

Location: Wall

Cedar Pass Lodge and Restaurant

Type: Fresh-made Indian fry bread, buffalo burgers, and other local delicacies grace the menu of this uniquely South Dakota kitchen. Plus, you can see the Badlands’ spires from your seat!

Location: Interior

The Custer Wolf

Type: An hour and a half west of the park, find this Custer charmer, serving hand-crafted cocktails and stick-to-your-ribs fare. Start with the Guiness cheese dip or beer-battered onion rings -- but save room for your hand-breaded chicken tenders or 1/3-pound burger.

Location: Custer

Harry’s Hideaway

Type: Get away from it all at this cozy diner, which dishes up all three meals and a selection of homemade desserts. No full bar, but enjoy beer and wine, including a local treat: South Dakota berry wine!

Location: New Underwood

Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill

Type: For down-home eats and drinks in a low key atmosphere, head to this local favorite. The food is fresh, and more importantly, the beer is cold!

Location: Interior

Shopping

Need something to bring home to grandma -- or a brand-new pair of cowboy boots for yourself? The towns surrounding Badlands National Park have you covered.

Badlands Ranch Store

Location: Philip

Buffalo Gift Shop

Location: Wall

Tatanka Trading Post

Location: Scenic

Wall Drug

Location: Wall

Museums

Rainy day got you down? No worries. Head to one of these area exhibits and museums to get in a little bit of learning -- and a lot of fun.

Sightseeing

As beautiful as the Badlands are, western South Dakota has even more to offer. Here are some stops not to miss.

National Park Sample Image

How to Get to
Badlands National Park

By Car

Driving to Badlands National Park is quite simple thanks to its close proximity to I90. From the interstate, exit onto Highway 240, also known as Badlands Loop Road. Ample signage points you toward the park entrance. The official park page also offers specific addresses of the park headquarters and all three entrances in order to facilitate GPS usage. Click here for full details.


By plane

If you’re planning to fly in, the closest airport is Rapid City Regional Airport, which lies about 70 miles and one hour west of the park. You might also fly into a larger hub in the area and make a longer road trip out of it; Badlands is about six hours from Denver and eight from Minneapolis.

By RV

Traveling by RV is one of the most comfortable and convenient ways to experience any national park, and the Badlands are no exception. On-site RV camping gives you a front-row seat for the area’s stunning sunrises and sunsets, and the plethora of resort-style campgrounds give you the opportunity for a truly luxurious experience. If you don’t already have an RV of your own, be sure to check out RV rentals in your area. Whether you’re looking for a large motorhome or modest towable rig, the RV of your dreams may just be waiting for you on the peer-to-peer market.

View RV Rentals

Entering Badlands National Park

When driving into the park, you should be aware of the fees required to enter. Here are the latest entry cost figures from official park literature.

Badlands National Park Private Vehicle : $20.0

A seven-day pass for private, non-commercial vehicles (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants.

Badlands National Park Motorcycle : $10.0

A seven-day pass for one or two passengers on a private, non-commercial motorcycle.

Badlands National Park Per Person : $10.0

A seven-day pass for one individual with no car (bicyclist, hiker, pedestrian). Youth 15 and under are admitted for free.

You can also choose to upgrade to an annual Badlands pass for $40, or opt for the $80 America the Beautiful Pass, which gets you into over 2,000 NPS-managed recreational lands.

Despite their name, you’re sure to have a good time in the Badlands -- and we can’t wait to hear more about it! Tag us in your Instagram photos and Facebook posts, or send pictures and stories directly to us at [email protected]. We may just feature your epic tales on our own blog and social media channels!