Badlands National Park  is a United States National Park that is located in southwestern South Dakota. This park is marked by rugged terrain and formations that resemble a science fiction landscape of another world. These rock formations take on the shapes of domes, twisted canyons and slanted walls, often striped in different colors. The formations contrast sharply with the rolling hills and prairies in which they stand.
In addition to the rock formations, the park contains the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. The most endangered land mammal in North America, the black footed ferret, was re-introduced to the 64,000-acres Badlands Wilderness Area. The park also contains the world's richest fossil beds from the Oligocene epoch, dating back around 20-35 million years.
Badlands late summer scene
Always carry water. Keep your distance from wildlife, especially bison. If your presence causes a change in behavior, then you are too close.
Refer to the Stay Safe section for more details about exploring the park.
Digging and/or moving fossils or artifacts from their locations in the ground is prohibited by Federal law. Offenders are subject to heavy fines and possibly jail. If you find some fossils or artifacts, note all details, and then stop by the Cedar Pass Contact Station and make a report.
- Medicine Loop Trail. Moderate 4 miles (2.5 km). Here the mixed grass prairie combines with long distance views of the Badlands. Be on the look out for prickly pear cacti.
- Castle Trail. Moderate 10 miles (16 km) round trip. This is the longest trail in the park. The trail is mostly level and winds through some formations. The Medicine Root Trail makes a loop within the Castle Trail from any connecting trailhead.
- Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. Moderate 0.5 mile (0.8 km) loop. This trail provides spectacular views of the White River Valley. It includes some boardwalk and stairs and climbs approximately 200 feet (61 meters). The parking lot cannot accommodate long vehicles or vehicles towing trailers.
- Door Trail. Easy 0.75 mile (1.2 km) round trip. This trail is accessible. This trail focuses on geology. The trail goes through a break in the Badlands Wall called "The Door". The first 150 yards (137 meters) is boardwalk.
- Fossil Exhibit Trail. Easy 0.25 mile (0.4 km) loop. This trail is fully accessible. The trail includes exhibits of now extinct creatures that once roamed the area. During the summer, presentations by park naturalists are offered.
- Notch Trail. Moderate to strenuous 1.5 miles (2.4 km) round trip. This trail is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. This trail provides a wonderful view of the White River Valley and Pine Ridge Reservation. The trail, however, can be very dangerous just after rains, especially heavy rains. Sturdy hiking boots and plenty of sun protection (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses) are recommended.
- Saddle Pass Trail. Strenuous 0.2 miles (0.4 km) and very steep, it connects Castle Trail and Medicine Root Loop to the Badlands Loop Road. The trail is impassable after rain.
- Window Trail. Easy 0.25 miles (0.4 km) round trip. This trail is accessible to athletic wheelchair users or with assistance. This trail goes to a natural "window" in the Badlands Wall.
Picnic tables are located near the Cedar Pass Campground. There are also picnice areas at the Journey Overlook and on Conata Road. As usual, no water is available and fires are stricted prohibited.
Located in the Cedar Pass Campground near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. In the summer moths, park rangers give a 40-minute presentation on an aspect of the park.
- Cedar Pass Lodge Gift Store offers a variety of handmade gifts and crafts, apparel, and sourvenirs. Convenience food and snack items are also available.
- Interior is located 2 miles west of the park on Highway 44. Services and facilities include a post office, grocery store, gas stations, and auto service year round.
- Wall is 30 miles northwest of park headquarters using the Badlands Loop Road or exit 110 on I-90. Motels, banking, pharmacy, medical clinic, gas, restaurants, and most services are available. The famous Wall Drug store is located here as well.
- Rapid City is located 75 miles west of the park headquarters.
- Cedar Pass Lodge Restaurant is open daily from mid April to mid October -- Summer Season Hours: 7AM-8:30PM; Fall Season Hours: 8AM - 4:30PM. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy a view from your table of the badlands. The restaurant is AAA approved and buses are welcome.
Water is available at the visitor centers.
Cedar Pass Lodge, (605) 433-5460, . Mid-April through mid-October. The the only permanent lodging within Badlands NP.
There are two campgrounds within the Badlands NP.
- Cedar Pass Campground. Costs $10 for a site in the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day), and $8 for a site in the winter, all sites first-come, first-served.
- Sage Creek Campground. Free campground, all sites first-come, first-served.
Backpackers can camp anywhere in the park that is at least one half mile from the road. Open fires are not permitted within the park. All backpackers are urged to stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, to better plan your trip and to alert the Park Service rangers to your presence.
- Weather. Badlands NP visitors must come prepared for the weather. Temperatures can exceed 100° F (38° C) in the summer, while winter temperatures can dip below 0° F (-18° C). Temperatures fluctuate through the day, sometimes widely. Thunderstorms and blizzards can come up suddenly.
- Exposure. Carry plenty of water (1 gallon per person per day), a hat, appropriate sunscreen, and sunglasses. Also consider that the park can be very windy.
- Wildlife. The animals in the park are less of a threat to visitors who pay them the proper respect. However, ending up on the wrong end of a bison can mean a hospital stay or death for the park visitor. Visitors should also be wary of the poisonous (but seldom deadly) prairie rattlesnakes, a subspecies of the rattlesnake.
- Prickly pear cactus. These small cacti hide in the prairie grass. Wear shoes with thick soles and watch you step. If their flowers are blooming, they are easier to spot.
- Water. There is no potable water in the park except at the visitor centers. Boiling, filtering, or treating with chemicals does not make the water drinkable.
- Getting lost. The vast areas of the park off the established trails or out of the designated areas can become very confusing. Good map reading and land navigation skills required.
- Unexploded ordnance. The Stronghold unit has any number of unexploded bombs and shells left over from the 1940s when the United States Air Force used the land as a gunnery range. When exploring the area keep an eye out. Do not touch any unexploded ordnance. Note the location and notify park rangers as soon as possible.
Nearby towns include:
- Wall. Home to the famous Wall Drug store.
Nearby monuments and parks in South Dakota include:
- The Chief Crazy Horse. A massive sculpture that is still being built on the side of a mountain to honor a famous Indian chief.
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The faces of four famous American presidents carved into the side of a mountain.
- Custer State Park. Home to a large herd of bison as well as other wildlife. Scenic drives.
- Jewel Cave National Monument. Jewel Cave is the second longest known cave in the world.
- Wind Cave National Park.
- Black Hills National Forest.
- Mammoth Site, 1800 West Hwy 18 Bypass, Hot Springs, ☎ +1 605 745-6017, . Open year round, times vary with season. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter Sunday.. The world's largest mammoth research facility in Hot Springs (South Dakota). Ages 4 and Under: Free; Ages 5 to 12: $5.50; Ages 13 to 59: $7.50; Ages 60 and over: $7.00.
- Bear Country USA, 13820 South Hwy 16, Rapid City, SD, ☎ +1 605 343-2290 (fax: +1 605 341-3206), . May-November, daily. June-August 8AM-7PM, otherwise 9AM-4PM.. The world's largest collection of reptiles, as well as some othe animals with educational and entertaining demonstrations of snakes, crocodiles, and others. Ages under 4: Free; Ages 5 to 12: $7.00; Ages 13 to 61 : $13.00; Ages 62+: $7.00; Maximum/Vehicle: $50.00; Season Pass: $95.00.
- Reptile Gardens, 8955 South Hwy 16, Rapid City, SD, ☎ +1 800 335-0275 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . The world's largest collection of reptiles, as well as some othe animals with educational and entertaining demonstrations of snakes, crocodiles, and others.
Driving west into Wyoming, sites include:
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