• Badlands formations against the blue sky; photo by Rikk Flohr

    Badlands

    National Park South Dakota

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  • Visitor Center Open / Road Construction

    Park roads and parking lots are under construction. Expect occasional 10 - 15 minute road construction delays along Hwy 240 Loop Road. There is limited parking at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Please follow the signs to park in designate areas.

Hiking

Hiker in the Badlands by Photographer Carl Johnson, 2009 Artist in Residence

© 2009 Carl Johnson

Badlands National Park offers a variety of designated hiking trails that allow you to experience the beauty of the park up close and personal. Hikes range from flat stretches through the prairie landscape to uphill climbs through the Badlands formations. If you are new to the park, consult with rangers at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. They can provide advice about trails, as well as recommendations for different fitness and experience levels. For those looking to get off the beaten path, find out more about our backcountry camping and hiking policies.

Things to Remember

  • Always carry water! Two quarts per person per two hour hike is recommended.
  • A hat and sunglasses are strongly encouraged, as well as rain gear since weatherconditions can change rapidly.
  • Wear sturdy boots or shoes to protect your feet from cactus spines.
  • Keep a distance of at least 100 yards from all wildlife encountered during your hike. If wildlife reacts to your presence at all, you are too close.
  • Remember that all park resources - fossils, plants, animals, artifacts, and rocks - are to remain as you find them. All visitors are entitled to the same sense of discovery you experience when traveling the park trails.

 
Badlands Hiking Trails
Designated Hiking Trails
 

Hiking Trails

Door Trail
0.75 miles/1.2 km (round trip)
Easy. An accessible ¼ mile boardwalk leads through a break in the Badlands Wall known as "the Door" and to a view of the Badlands. From there, the maintained trail ends. Travel beyond this point is at your own risk. Watch for drop-offs.
* View Interactive Panorama: Door Trail (1.3 MB)

Window Trail
0.25 miles/0.4 km (round trip)
Easy. This short trail leads to a natural window in the Badlands Wall with a view of an intricately eroded canyon. Please stay on the trail.

Notch Trail
1.5 miles/2.4 km (round trip)
Moderate to strenuous. After meandering through a canyon, this trail climbs a log ladder and follows a ledge to "the Notch" for a dramatic view of the White River Valley. Trail begins at the south end of the Door and Window parking area. Watch for drop-offs. Not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights. Treacherous during or after heavy rains.

Castle Trail
10 miles/16 km (round trip)
Moderate. The longest trail in the park begins at the Door and Window parking area and travels five miles one way to the Fossil Exhibit Trail. Relatively level, the path passes along some badlands formations.

Cliff Shelf
0.5 miles/0.8 km (round trip)
Moderate. This loop trail follows boardwalks and climbs stairs through a juniperforest perched along the Badlands Wall. A small pond occasionally exists in the area and draws wildlife, such as deer or bighorn sheep. Climbs approximately 200 feet in elevation. Please stay on the trail.

Saddle Pass
.25 miles/.40 km (round trip)
Strenuous. This short trail climbs up the Badlands Wall to a view over the White River Valley. The trail ends where it connects with the Castle and Medicine Root Loop Trails.
* View Interactive Panorama: Saddle Pass (1.0 MB)

Medicine Root Loop
4 miles/6.4 km (round trip)
Moderate. This generally rolling trail connects with the Castle Trail near the Old Northeast Road and at the intersection of the Castle and Saddle Pass Trails. Trail users are provided the opportunity to explore the mixed grass prairie while enjoying views of the Badlands in the distance. Watch for cactus.

Fossil Exhibit Trail
0.25 miles/0.4 km (round trip)
Easy. Fully accessible boardwalk trail features fossil replicas and exhibits of now extinct creatures that once roamed the area.
* View Interactive Panorama: Fossil Exhibit Trail (1.0 MB)

* Viewing interactive panoramas requires you to have QuickTime installed on your computer. Interactive panoramas created by Artist in Residence Rikk Flohr.

Did You Know?

Painting of a mosasaur

During the Age of Dinosaurs, a warm, shallow sea covered the Great Plains, including what is now Badlands. Since dinosaurs were land creatures, no fossils of these animals have been found in the park. Giant marine lizards called mosasaurs swam in the ancient sea, along with sea turtles and fish.