What is Badlands National Park?
Badlands National Park is one of the most visited national parks in USA. It is located in the Southwestern part of South Dakota, with 244,000 acres of spectacular landscapes and a large variety of native wildlife. Within the park, about 64,000 acres of land is designated wilderness area. While the National Park Service manages the park, the South Unit is actually being co-managed with the Oglala Lakota tribe.
Where is Badlands National Park?
There are many different ways to get to the park. However, the easiest way is probably through Rapid City. You can fly to Rapid City easily once you are in USA, but I don’t believe there is a direct flight from a foreign airport. Once you land in Rapid City, head east and drive. There are two entrances to get into Badlands National Park. The closer one is about 45 minutes from Rapid City and it would be through the township called Scenic. From there, you can explore the northern part of Badlands by going east. The other way, which is the better way in my opinion, is to drive 1 hour and 15 minutes from Rapid City to the township called Interior. At this township, you will see the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. This is an information centre for visitors who want more information about the park. You can get a map of the park and ask the rangers for a quick guide. To get inside the park, entrance fee is $20 per vehicle, and the permit is good for 7 days!
Just one thing to note: From the Interior Entrance to the Pinnacles Entrance, the roads are paved. However, from the Pinnacles Entrance to Scenic, the roads are gravel roads. Even cars that are not four wheel drive should not have any problem. I would only caution drivers to pay extra attention during stormy and icy conditions.
Things to look out for
One of the attractive landmarks at Badlands is the eroded buttes and pinnacles. You can see them at certain spots of Badlands. If you can get yourself a map from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, those spots would be at the White River Valley Overlook, Burns Basin Overlook, and the Pinnacles Overlook. These spots allow you to see the breadth of the eroded buttes from the top.
You could alternatively download the map via their official website: https://www.nps.gov/badl/planyourvisit/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=3094622
Most people who come to Badlands want to see the unusual rock formations. When you drive along the national park, you’ll notice that the scenery changes quite fast. Around the middle of the national park, You’ll be able to find some interesting yellow hills at the visitor spot in Yellow Mounds Overlook.
The whole Badlands structures were formed due to deposition and erosion. If you pay attention at the structures, you’ll see that each layer shows a different colour and texture. The bottom bedrock was formed 67 to 75 million years ago, and the top part was formed about 28 to 30 million years ago. Different environments – sea, tropical land and open woodland with rivers – caused the various sediments to shape the structures that you see today. The Yellow Mounds were the upper layers that weathered into yellow soil. These mounds are an example of fossil soil. Even today, the White River Badlands has remained one of the popular destinations for scientists and institutions to study fossil resources, providing a glimpse of life that was 30 million years ago.
One of the things that park rangers encourage is to watch the Pinnacles Overlook view during sunset or sunrise. It will be one of your memorable moments in South Dakota.
Wild life is essential in this national park. Bighorn sheep and Bison Bulls roam the national park. You may see coyotes there too! These animals are wild though so please don’t taunt them.
Maybe because this is a wilderness area, unfortunately pets are not allowed in this park.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to drive, Badlands is a pretty cool place for you to hike. There are about 8 trails in the national park. Difficulty level is easy, where it ranges from 0.4 km to 16 km (round trip).
The official site will give you more information about the hiking trails: https://www.nps.gov/badl/planyourvisit/hiking.htm