Day Hikes

Badlands National Park offers an assortment of day hikes for visitors with varying abilities.

Short Hikes

Fossil Exhibit Trail

.25 miles/.40 km (round trip)

20 minutes

Easy

View fossil replicas and learn about the extinct mammals that once roamed the badlands, while walking this accessible boardwalk loop trail.

Saddle Pass Trail

.25 miles/.40 km (round trip)

½ - 1 hour

Strenuous

Climb the Badlands Wall to reach the upper prairie and view the incredible scenery of the White River Valley. The trail ends at the intersection of the Castle Trail and Medicine Root Loop. Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes and be careful when walking over loose soils. The trail is impassable when wet.

Window Trail

.25 miles/.40 km (round trip)

20 minutes

Easy

Travel the accessible boardwalk to view this intricately eroded canyon through an opening or “window” in the formation. The trail begins at the center of the Door and Window parking area.

Cliff Shelf Trail

.5 miles/.8 km (round trip)

½ hour

Moderate

Walk this boardwalk loop trail to discover an oasis beneath the Badlands Wall. During wet seasons, a small pond lies within this juniper forest, providing desirable habitat for song birds, bighorn sheep, deer, croaking frogs, and an assortment of other wildlife. A 200-foot elevation gain is reached via stairs. Watch for prairie rattlesnakes. The first section of this trail reaches an accessible overlook. The parking lot is small and cannot accommodate vehicles towing trailers.

Door Trail

.75 miles/1.2 km (round trip)

20 minutes

Easy

Step through the “door,” a break in the Badlands Wall to view the rugged maze of the badlands formations via an accessible boardwalk trail. Exhibits explain the geology of the area. The maintained trail ends at the stairs and visitors can travel 300 meters farther at their own risk, following yellow markers in the formations. Beware of drop offs. Those venturing into the formations beyond the yellow markers, occasionally lose their bearings and become lost.

Notch Trail

1.5 miles/2.4 km (round trip)

1½ - 2 hours

Moderate to strenuous

Enjoy an assortment of wildflowers along this trail in the spring, as you meander down a canyon and climb a wooden ladder to a “notch” in the Badlands Wall. The “notch” overlooks the Cliff Shelf Trail and the scenic White River Valley. Watch for drop offs. Do not attempt this trail, if you have a fear of heights. The trail is treacherous during or after heavy rains. Wear sturdy, closed-toed footwear.

Longer Hikes

Medicine Root Loop

4 miles/6.4 km (round trip)

2 hours

Moderate

Discover the mixed-grass prairie and enjoy views of rugged badlands formations. This generally rolling spur trail connects with the Castle Trail near Old Northeast Road or at the intersection of the Castle and Saddle Pass Trails. Watch for cactus.

Castle Trail

10 miles/16 km (round trip)

5 hours

Moderate

Hike the longest trail in the park from the Door and Window parking area to the Fossil Exhibit Trail to view the scenery so many early explorers likened to “castles” in the sky.

Venturing Off-trail

Badlands National Park maintains an open backcountry policy, which allows hikers to explore off-trail and immerse themselves in the solitude of nature. Hikers desiring this type of activity should be well-prepared for the experience by taking the proper safety precautions to avoid injury and getting lost.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

25216 Ben Reifel Road
Interior, SD 57750

Phone:

(605) 433-5361

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