Notch Trail Badlands National Park hike

This trek travels up a badlands canyon to an overlook with massive views over the Great Plains. The hike is 1.33 miles round trip with 125 feet of elevation gain. There is no boardwalk to follow on this hike, just a dirt trail and a steep wooden ladder. Notch Trail also traces a cliff’s edge so it is not a good option for hikers with a fear of heights. For those interested in a little adventure, this hike has a lot to offer.

Begin at the south end of the shared trailhead for Door Trail, Window Trail, and Notch Trail. The dirt path heads southward into a canyon of eroded sediment spotted by juniper and brush. A third of a mile from the start, the canyon walls narrow, heading toward a dry falls. Luckily, no scaling is required. A wooden ladder presents itself, bolted to the right side of the canyon.

Notch Trail Badlands National Park
The ladder along Notch Trail

Take it up a notch! There are over 50 rungs to climb to reach the top of a ledge lining the canyon. When your feet are back on solid ground, turn left and skirt a cliff to return to the canyon floor above the dry falls.

Notch Trail Badlands National Park
Looking up the canyon

The trail becomes a bit faint as you continue toward a split in the ravine. Stay to the right, following brown trail markers. The hike comes to a sudden end at a cliff dropping steeply into the badlands to the south. The overlook has sweeping views of this unique landscape as well as miles and miles of prairie grasses. Cliff Shelf Nature Trail is visible below.

Notch Trail Badlands National Park
Looking east from the notch

Take in the view before returning the way you came. The ladder is a little trickier going down, so exercising caution on the descent. No permit is required to hike Notch Trail, but there is an entrance fee for Badlands National Park.

To get to the trailhead: Take Badlands Loop Road (Route 240) two miles east of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to a large pullout on the east side of the road for Door, Window, and Notch Trails. Notch Trail begins from the south end of the lot.

Trailhead address: Badlands Loop Road (SD 240), Badlands National Park, Interior, SD 57750
Trailhead coordinates: 43.760119, -101.928251 (43° 45′ 36.42″N 101° 55′ 41.70″W)

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Photos

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These photos were taken in August of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Door TrailDoor Trail
This one-mile hike passes through a gap in Badlands Wall to a viewing platform followed by a cross-country path into the rugged badlands.
Window TrailWindow Trail
This level 0.25-mile round trip hike leads to an opening in the Badlands Wall overlooking the rugged landscape beyond.
Cliff Shelf Nature TrailCliff Shelf Nature Trail
This half-mile hike loops through a juniper forest on the south side of the Badlands Wall, reaching a viewpoint below the notch.
Similar Trails
Zabriskie PointZabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park
Zabriskie Point offers a stunning panorama of the badlands near Furnace Creek.
Death Valley Badlands hikeBadlands Loop in Death Valley National Park
This 2.5-mile loop offers a great immersion into the terrain beneath Zabriskie Point.
Golden Canyon Death ValleyGolden Canyon – Gower Gulch Loop in Death Valley National Park
This 4-mile loop visits stunning terrain in the badlands region near Furnace Creek.
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Distance: 1.33 miles – Elevation change: 125 feet

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