Hiking Badlands National Park
Hiking Badlands National Park can be a fun experience for all ages and abilities. With the variety of trails and camping opportunities, you'll love every minute.
Located in southwest South Dakota, Badlands National Park is rich with natural wonders, animals and plant life. There are hiking trails for people of all ages and abilities, but make sure to adequately prepare for your trip before you take off down the trail. You will need to pay close attention to the weather, be realistic about your skill level, and take appropriate precautions to avoid dangers.
The nearest major city is Rapid City, South Dakota. Major airlines and Greyhound Bus Lines both have service to this city, which is approximately 80 miles from the park. To drive, you will travel along Interstate 90, which will take you to the north side of the park.
Trails range from .25 mile to 5 miles long and from easy to strenuous. Some trails provide fabulous views of the White River Valley; others offer walks through woods and prairie. Some trails are paved or partially paved. Stop at the Reifel Visitor Center to find directions, maps and trail guides. Though they are allowed in the park, pets are not allowed on the trails.
Proper shoes are crucial when hiking in Badlands National Park. Some trails are narrow and may have loose footing; others require hiking on rock. Wear a pair of hiking boots with good tread and ankle support. Socks that wick moisture are helpful as well.
The weather can change rapidly in the park, so you will want to layer your clothing and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Bring plenty of sunscreen; some trails have intense sun exposure during certain times of day. Sunglasses are helpful, as well as a rain poncho.
There are many native animals to be found in the park. Bison, Bighorn sheep, deer, fox, black-footed ferrets and rattlesnakes are just a few of the animals you may see.
Be aware that the prairie rattlesnake is abundant at Badlands. The snakes rest during the day and are typically found on ledges or in crevices. Watch where you step and don't place your hands on any surface you can't see.
Bison are also common in the park. Make sure to stay far enough away that they don't get nervous. Weighing in at over 2,000 lbs, bison are able to cause severe injury.
Weather at Badlands National Park can change rapidly. During the summer, thunderstorms frequently occur, and according to the National Park Service, "Hailstorms and occasional tornadoes can descend on the Badlands with sudden fury." Be prepared to find shelter if needed. Pack plenty of water, as the temperature can rise significantly, as well, and there is little or no water available in the back country. Check the weather report every day before hiking. The visitor center at the park has this information.