Frequently Asked Questions

If you are planning a trip to the Badlands, the Badlands Visitor Guide (2.3MB pdf) is the best place to start. This guide contains valuable information on services, safety, park resources and much more.

Top 5 FAQs

1) Why is it called the Badlands?

The Lakota people were the first to call this place "mako sica" or "land bad." Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. In the early 1900's, French-Canadian fur trappers called it "les mauvais terres pour traverse," or "bad lands to travel through."

Today, the term badlands has a more geologic definition. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded in a dry climate. The park's typical scenery of sharp spires, gullies, and ridges is a premier example of badlands topography. (Geologic Formations)

2) How long does it take to see the park?

It depends. To fully experience most of what the Badlands has to offer, it takes two days. To drive through the park and stop at a few overlooks, it takes about two hours. Here are a few highlights you won't want to miss & the minimum time needed.

• Drive the Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road (60 minutes if you do not stop at any overlooks)
• Stop at a minimum of two scenic overlooks (30 minutes)
• Drive the Sage Creek Rim Road to see animals and additional views (30 to 60 minutes - depending on distance covered)
• Hike a trail or explore the backcountry (variable time/distances - 30 minutes to all day)
• Attend a ranger fossil talk (30 min) or guided walk (60 minutes)
• Stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center (60 minutes)
• Go to the White River Visitor Center (45 minutes - does not include travel time to the facility)
• Take in a sunset or sunrise (20 minutes)
• Tour the South Unit of the park (45 minutes to all day)
(Plan your Visit)

3) Where can I see bison?

Bison live in the Badlands Wilderness Area (west side of the North Unit). You can usually see Bison from the Sage Creek Rim Road. This is also a good place to see prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, and other animals. (Wildlife video)

4) What is the best place for sunset?

Try Pinnacles Overlook, Conata Basin Overlook, Bigfoot Pass Picnic Area, and the Norbeck Pass area. Walking east on the Castle Trail is a great way to view the changing light on the north side of the Badlands wall. (Photography Brochure pdf)

5) What is the best trail?

All of our trails are spectacular. You really can't go wrong! For a 1.5 mile moderate to strenuous trail, try the Notch Trail. For a longer more moderate hike try any section of the Castle Trail. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for current and predicted weather conditions. (Hiking)

More FAQ

Last updated: May 7, 2018

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Mailing Address:

25216 Ben Reifel Road
Interior, SD 57750


(605) 433-5361

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