THING TO DO

Drive Around the South Unit of the Badlands

a large, flat table stands out from similarly brown badlands buttes.

The South Unit is a beautiful part of Badlands National Park, and this drive around its perimeter offers spectacular sights. Whether you're headed east or west, the South Unit is worth seeing!

If you’d like to enjoy views of the South Unit from the comfort of your car, consider driving the roads around the South Unit! Unlike the North Unit, there are no roads that cut through the South Unit—the only access into the South Unit is by driving Sheep Mountain Table or backcountry hiking.

To drive around the South Unit (starting from the east), take SD Hwy 44 to the town of Scenic and turn south on SD Hwy 27. Continue for 20 miles, where SD Hwy 27 intersects with BIA Hwy 2. This is also a great opportunity to visit the White River Visitor Center, which is located at this intersection. From the intersection, continue west on BIA Hwy 2 for 21 miles, where it meets BIA Hwy 41. Turn north onto BIA Hwy 41 and be sure to stop at Red Shirt Table Overlook. This drive (from Scenic to Red Shirt) takes about an hour, one-way. BIA Hwy 41 completes the loop around the South Unit—staying on 41 takes you to the town of Hermosa where you can continue on to Rapid City.

Safety Tips

  • Seeing Badlands National Park can be exciting, especially when you spot the perfect view. Be sure to pull off into a pull-out or overlook to enjoy. Please do not stop in the road, as this stops traffic.
  • Wildlife is commonly seen on many park roads. Remember to keep a minimum of a 100-foot distance from any wildlife -- if the wildlife notices you, you are too close.
  • Follow all posted speed limits and be especially careful when passing parking lots, where pedestrian traffic is common.
  • Check the weather. Weather in Badlands National Park can change rapidly. Use extra caution when driving in rainy, snowy, or icy conditions.
  • Lost? Cell phones are not always reliable in the park, where service can be spotty. Make sure to pick up a park map from an entry booth, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the White River Visitor Center, or check out online maps before heading out. 
  • Visit this safety page for more information on having a safe visit to Badlands National Park.
  • The area is part of a former bombing range. If you see something that looks like an unexploded ordnance, please report it to the park and do not touch it.
Details

Pets are permitted in Badlands National Park with some restrictions. Pets must be kept on a leash no more than six feet in length at all times. Pets are only permitted in developed areas, such as campgrounds and picnic areas, and other areas open to motor vehicles, such as gravel and paved roadways, roadway corridors, and parking lots. Pets are prohibited from hiking trails, public buildings (i.e. visitor centers), and backcountry areas, including the Badlands Wilderness Area, and areas with prairie dog colonies. Pet etiquette dictates always cleaning up animal waste and disposing of it in trash receptacles.

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
These roads are open year round, but may be icy and dangerous in winter weather conditions.
The roads around the South Unit are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Accessibility Information
The drive around the unit is entirely on paved roads, although there are no hiking trails or boardwalks along the route.

Last updated: December 30, 2020