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.
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.
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.
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)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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.
This level 0.25-mile round trip hike leads to an opening in the Badlands Wall overlooking the rugged landscape beyond.
|Cliff 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.
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