10 Reasons You Should Visit Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park
Located in Southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park is 244,000 acres of stunning landscape, from spires to eroded buttes, canyons, and pinnacles. The park’s distinctive name comes from the Lakota tribe, who titled it “Maco Sika,” meaning “land bad.” The park has immense biological diversity and also boasts the world’s greatest fossil bed of animals, with skeletons of three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats all carefully preserved!

The park is also a known visiting spot for many wild creatures, from coyotes and butterflies to bluebirds, vultures, mules, deers, and bisons all flocking the region. If you’re a nature enthusiast or wildlife fanatic looking to drop in for a visit, here are ten attractions in the park you definitely shouldn’t miss! 


Fossil Exhibit Trailhead

 

Fossil Exhibit Trailhead

This 0.25-mile boardwalk trailhead features awe-inspiring fossil replicas and exhibits of extinct creatures that once inhabited the area. The trail is located on the scenic Loop Road, approximately 5 miles west of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. 


It is self-guided, fully accessible, and family-friendly, so it’s the perfect trail to follow if you’re visiting the park with family or friends. This trail is a wonderful way to view the park’s history before your eyes, taking in the iconic Badlands formations while learning about the extinct animals at the same time. 


Yellow Mounds Overlook

Yellow Mounds Overlook

If you’re looking for a scenic spot to stop at during your exploration of the park, the Yellow Mounds Overlook is the perfect place! This striking spot is recognized as the most colorful region in the Badlands, featuring stripes of brilliant yellow, purple, grey, reddish beds on the formation of the Yellow Mounds. 


Pinnacles Overlook

Pinnacles Overlook

The Pinnacles Overlook is a 0.4-mile-long trail and has the best view of the central area of Badlands National Park. Along the path, you can take in some fantastic rock formations sculpted over half a million years of rain, water, and land erosion. 


The rugged terrain continues throughout the region, and near the end of the overlook, the badlands extend in all directions, forming a beautiful vast canyon. This is one of the most photographed regions of the park and is certainly a sight to pause and take in while you’re exploring the region.  


Saddle Pass Trailhead

Saddle Pass Trailhead

 

The Saddle Pass trailhead is one of Badland’s shorter but more challenging trails to take on. Daring hikers will have to ascend the Badlands wall to a vista over the White River Valley, and this is a remarkable way to appreciate how enormous the wall really is. 


Once you’re at the top, you can take in the stretch of lush grassland and finned rocks, with an occasional glance of wildlife in the distance! 


Big Badlands Overlook

Big Badlands Overlook

The Big Badlands Overlook is a pull-off stop off the road where you can stop for breathtaking panoramic views of the Badland landscape. The sweeping views of the jagged Badlands Wall from this point are absolutely stunning, with the rock formations visibly changing colors as the sun dips in and out of the horizon, bouncing off the rusty, reddish stripes of the Brule Formation and the darker grey beds of the Chadron Formation. 


Robert’s Prairie Dog Town

Robert’s Prairie Dog Town

Badlands National Park is home to many different prairie dog settlements, also known as dog towns. This is one of the most exciting places to visit in the park, where you can witness thousands of squeaky prairie dogs scrambling about and popping in and out of borrows at the speed of lightning. It’s located in the Sage Creek Wilderness Area of the park and is an ideal, family-friendly photography spot to visit during your trip. 


Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead

Cliff Shelf Nature Trailhead

The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail begins beneath the Badlands wall and provides easy access to South Dakota’s badlands, with cedar trees and a wild pond keeping you company as you trek under the clear, cerulean sky. 


This half-mile-long trailhead is relatively easy to trek, passing through a lush juniper forest and rising 300 feet to a dramatic view of the White River Valley, with a gorgeous overview of the sedimentary buttes and spires laying on the horizon. 


Bigfoot Pass Overlook

Bigfoot Pass Overlook

This marvelous viewpoint is located on the scenic Loop Road and offers incredible views of the many formations littered through the park. Not only is this area an impressive geological vista, but it also has an interesting (and quite bloody) history behind its name, marking the route of the Chief Spotted Elk (also known as Bigfoot) in 1890. 


Panorama Point

Panorama Point

Like the Bigfoot Pass, the Panorama Point is also located along the Loop Rood, offering extensive views of the rugged Badlands terrain. This is a great spot to observe and photograph the park’s biological diversity and take in the wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and jaw-dropping, tall formations that have made this park a global attraction. 


The Panorama Point is particularly famous for offering far-reaching views of the park’s picturesque landscape, with deep gorges and colorful sedimentary layers that stretch as far as the eyes can see. 


White River Valley Overlook

White River Valley Overlook

The White River Valley Overlook provides sprawling views of the western side of the national park, close to the Castle, a lineup of gorgeous, tall rock formations. This overlook is closer to the visitor center, offering unbeatable views of the Badland’s most renowned features, such as the rustic red-striped hills and formations in the distance. 


With the twinkling White River about six miles south and sweeping views of the jaw-dropping Badlands terrain all around, the White River Valley Overlook is a must-stop spot for the ultimate bird’s eye views of the spectacular natural landscape this park has to offer. 

Badlands National Park

Known as the ‘Land of Stone and Light,’ Badlands National Park’s rugged beauty and rich historic feel attracts thousands of visitors from around the globe. While the ten attractions mentioned above are some of the best the park has to offer, there are many hidden gems that you can stumble upon in your explorations of its vast landscape. With its immense biological diversity, incredible wildlife, fossil beds, prehistoric bones, and impressive rock formations, Badlands National Park is an absolute must-visit. 

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