One of the most iconic natural areas in the United States is the Badlands. The pictures you see on the internet just look surreal with the red stripes going through the massive rocks and craggy formations. On our recent road trip, we planned the route so we could spend some time in the Badlands National Park right outside Rapid City, South Dakota. If you are planning a trip in South Dakota, here are some things to know to help you plan your vacation.
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Things to Know: the Badlands
The Badlands National park sits on over 200,000 acres of land just an hour outside Rapid City, South Dakota. There is so much to see in the Badlands, but most people will experience it the way we did. If you get off I-90 at exit 110, you can visit historic Wall Drug and get your picture on the elusive jackalope, then you are ready to head south into the Badlands.
There is a entrance fee for each vehicle, or you can use your National Park Service Annual pass. This pass is $80 but allows you to enter most of the national parks and monuments for free in a 12 month time period.
This is an important consideration when you plan your time in the Badlands National Park. There are restooms in the Visitors Center at the end of the wildlife loop but not at the beginning of the trail after leaving Wall Drug. Make sure you take care of your restroom needs before you leave Wall. There are a couple of picnic areas that have small portapots available but depending on traffic, there may be quite a line.
Once you leave Wall, there are no gas stations till you get all the way around the loop. Don’t forget to fill up and start the loop trail with a full tank of gas. It may only be 35 miles but you will probably be away from civiliaztion for several hours depending on traffic and how often you stop for scenic views.
Enjoy the Overlooks:
There are multiple overlooks and pull offs along the loop trail. When you come in from Wall, you will have the option to turn left and begin the loop trail or you can turn right and go exploring a little on a smaller road. I suggest you take that road! There is an amazing overlook immediately off the road that is well worth your time!
Drive another few miles out that road and you get to Prairie Dog Town. If you have never seen prairie dogs in the wild, this is a fun little detour. The prairie dogs may be a nuisance to local farmers and ranchers, but to those of who don’t see them except in zoos or on tv, they are comical and fun to watch.
Some of the overlooks are more congested than others, but there are plenty of places to pull off. If one is too crowded, just drive a little farther and you will have another amazing view.
Watch for wildlife:
At one of the overlooks, we were treated to a show by the local long horn sheep. They are kind of hard to see at first, but once you see the first one, you may be suprirsed at how many sheep are out on the <what are they called?> cliffs? Remember that these are wild animals, so get your pictures and enjoy them from a safe distance.
Enjoy a Picnic:
About halfway through the loop, there is a great little picnic area with a small restroom portapot and some benches. Take a few minutes and enjoy a peanut butter sandwich and chips with an amazing view of the Badlands.
Have you ever been to the Badlands? Got any memories to share of your last visit on a vacation?