Badlands National Park

South Dakota, United States North America icon North America

Badlands National Park is located in the northern United States in the southwestern corner of the state of South Dakota.  The national park boundaries encompass an area of 379.3 square miles (982.4 sq km).

The Badlands Wilderness is a further designation of an area with the national park.  It covers an area of 100.2 square miles (259.6 sq km).  The table mountain known as Red Shirt Table is the highest elevation in the park reaching a height of 3,340 feet (1,020 m).

The park is renowned for the eroded sandstone rock formations, ravines, canyons, eroded buttes, and pinnacles.  There are many fossils in the area affirming that the region had been underwater at some stage of history.

The black-footed ferret is one of the rarest mammals in the world.  In an effort to develop a stronger population, it was introduced into this wilderness area to try and create a stronghold.  Other neighboring species to this ferret is the black-tailed prairie dog.

Other popular species of the Badlands include bighorn sheep, bison, white-tailed deer, porcupine, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and the white-tailed deer.  Predators of the park include badger, bobcat, coyote, and the swift fox.

Badlands Highlights

The Badlands represents a very colorful picturesque landscape featuring eroded sandstone rock formations.  The rugged ravines, eroded buttes, and towering pinnacles are the highlights of the park.

There is an easy boarded trail that takes visitors to the Windows, which is a short trail leading to a scenic lookout over the Badlands wilderness.  There are longer and more adventurous trails, Door Trail and Notch Trail, that provides visitors with extended treks through the wilderness.  Hiking is the best way to experience the majestic nature of this colorful part of the country.

Trails of Badlands National Park

There are a good number of trails for exploring the Badlands of South Dakota.  Below are some of the more popular.

Fossil Exhibit Trail: This is a great short family trail covering only a distance of .25 miles (.4 km) with educational posts along the way speaking to the animals that used to dwell in the park.  There are some bronzed fossils to see as well.

Notch Trail:  This trail is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to a view of the White River Valley, but the whole journey is an amazing experience through nature.  It passes along a canyon to a log ladder.  The ascent of the trail and steep ladder can make the trail kind of difficult, but it is a stunning view of the valley.

Medicine Root Trail: This trail meanders through the prairie environment.  It is actually a moderately strenuous trail with cautions related to rattlesnakes and cactus.  It covers a distance of 4 miles (6.44 km) with views of the valley and neighboring rock formations.

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail:  This short half-mile trail (.8 km) is an easy and boarded trail in the White River Valley with views of Eagle Butte.  There is the potential to see 100 different species of birds along the way.

Castle Trail:  This is the longest trail in the park covering a distance of 10 miles (16.1 km).  Although it is long, it is fairly level making it a little easier for those that take on the endeavor.  It allows hikers to experience the Fossil Exhibit Trail along with a series of different rock formations and landscapes that make up the national park.

Badlands Highlights

  • Eroded colorful buttes
  • Pinnacles
  • Boardwalk to the Windows




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