Hikes in Badlands National Park

Located in southwest South Dakota, the Badlands could not look more different than the surrounding Great Plains. The contrast between Badlands buttes and the surrounding prairie grasses make this a very dramatic national park. Early French trappers and earlier Native Americans gave this landscape similar names meaning “bad lands.” This rough terrain of eroded spires and pinnacles must have been hell for travelers in centuries past. Today, roadways make it easy to explore and enjoy the Badlands, even if you have limited time in the park.

There is a $15 entrance fee to access Badlands National Park and there are two campgrounds within the 380-square mile park. Cedar Pass Campground is the principal place to camp with 96 standard sites and four group sites. Sage Creep Primitive Campground is situated on an unpaved road in a remote area on the west side of the park and lacks amenities like potable water.

Campgrounds in Badlands National Park

Cedar Pass Campground | 96 sites | open year-round | reservations accepted | $15 per night | $28 per night with electric hook-ups. | potable water, covered picnic tables, fire grates, dump station, and flush toilets | elevation 2,400 feet

Sage Creek Primitive Campground | 15 sites | open year-round | first-come first serve | no fee | Pit toilets and covered picnic tables | no water | no campfires | elevation 2,500 feet

Trails in Badlands National Park

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 Badlands Wall overlooking the rugged landscape beyond.
Notch TrailNotch Trail
This adventurous 1 1/3-mile hike travels up a badlands canyon to an elevated overlook with views over the Great Plains.
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.


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Bismarck Lake Campground Black Hills National Forest South Dakota Camping
Bismarck Lake is a small, secluded 23-site campground in Black Hills National Forest, less than five miles east of Custer, South Dakota. While some sites offer obstructed views of the lake below, most sites are nestled back in the woods among ponderosa pines and large boulders. A lakeside boardwalk with benches and an elevated seated area leaves from the campground and... Read more.
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By: Published: Last updated: September 10, 2015
Rankin Ridge Trail Hike Wind Cave National Park Black Hills South Dakota Rankin Ridge Fire Tower Lookout Tower Hike
Rankin Ridge forms part of the southeast edge of the Black Hills and at 5,013 feet in elevation, it is the highest point in Wind Cave National Park. A lookout tower rises above the ridge top, which can be reached via a 250-foot ascent on a 0.55-mile long single track. Take a wide dirt trail back down the ridge to form a one-mile loop. Although this hike is short, it is... Read more.
By: Published: Last updated: April 25, 2016
Crazy Horse Memorial Hike Black Hills South Dakota Crazy Horse Volksmarch
It is not every day that you can hike to the top of a 563-foot tall granite carving honoring an American legend. Actually, you can only do this hike a few days a year when the active construction on Crazy Horse Memorial is suspended so that the public can get a close look. The hike passes through forests and fields below the work-in-progress memorial and follows the same... Read more.
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Distance: 4.75 miles – Elevation change: 775 feet
By: Published: Last updated: April 17, 2016
Cliff Shelf Nature Trail Badlands National Park hike
Beneath the natural fortress known as Badlands Wall, Cliff Shelf Nature Trail presents easy access to South Dakota's badlands and has views across the Great Plains. This pleasant half-mile lollipop loop passes through a juniper forest elevated along the Badlands Wall, a 100-mile long ridge spanning across the park. The start of the loop is wheelchair friendly, but there... Read more.
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Distance: 0.5 miles – Elevation change: 300 feet
By: Published: Last updated: November 18, 2014
Notch Trail Badlands National Park hike Notch Hike South Dakota
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... Read more.
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Distance: 1.33 miles – Elevation change: 125 feet
By: Published: Last updated: April 25, 2016