Door Trail Badlands National Park hike

The door on this trail is an opening in Badlands Wall that introduces hikers to a rugged world. While nearby Window Trail allows visitors to look over the wall, Door Trail lets you walk through it. A short boardwalk takes hikers through a natural passageway to a viewing platform on the other side. Beyond that, follow a level path across the formidable landscape to overlooks with views into steep eroded canyons. You will feel completely immersed in the badlands on this 1-mile round trip hike with 50 feet of elevation gain. For a quicker wheelchair-friendly stroll, it is just a quarter mile out and back to the viewing deck at the end of the boardwalk.

Badlands National Park Door Trail Boardwalk
The end of the boardwalk on Door Trail

A sign at the trailhead previews the trail this way:

The Door Trail leads to the broken landscape that earned this area the name Badlands. Over time, water sliced through the earth around you, exposing sedimentary rock layers. These layers continue to erode today into dramatic canyons and spires. Explore these features up close by passing through a natural door at the end of the boardwalk.

Start from the north end of the parking area for Window Trail, Door Trail, and Notch Trail in Badlands National Park. The boardwalk kicks off among prairie grasses and curls northeast through a gap in the eroded spires that frame the badlands. Step out to a viewing deck, 1/8 of a mile from the start. Ahead lies a dramatic arid landscape of rugged gullies bordered to the south by the imposing features along Badlands Wall.

Badlands National Park Door Trail
Hiking across the badlands beyond the end of the boardwalk

Steps to the right bring you off the boardwalk and down into the badlands. From here, follow a worn path across the rugged terrain. The route is marked by yellow knee-high posts to help you from getting lost. The manageable cross-country trek ends after a third of a mile at an overlook with a suddenly vast perspective over rugged canyons and gullies.

Badlands National Park Door Trail
Looking out over the badlands

This short, relatively easy trail takes you into the heart of the badlands. Return the way you came. No permit is required to hike Door Trail, but Badlands National Park has an entrance fee.

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

Trailhead address: Badlands Loop Road (SD 240), Badlands National Park, Interior, SD 57750
Trailhead coordinates: 43.763532, -101.92678 (43° 45′ 48.7″N 101° 55′ 36.4″W)

Trail Map
View Badlands National Park in a larger map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding South Dakota trails and campgrounds.


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These photos were taken in August of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Window Trail Window Trail
This level 0.25-mile round trip hike leads to an opening in the Badlands Wall overlooking the rugged landscape beyond.
Notch Trail Notch 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 Trail 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.
Similar Trails
Zabriskie Point Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park
Zabriskie Point offers a stunning panorama of the badlands near Furnace Creek.
Death Valley Badlands hike Badlands Loop in Death Valley National Park
This 2.5-mile loop offers a great immersion into the terrain beneath Zabriskie Point.
Golden Canyon Death Valley Golden 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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Tagged with · Badlands · National Parks
Distance: 1 mile · Elevation change: 50 feet

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3 Comments on Door Trail in Badlands National Park

  1. […] kick things off in Badlands National Park with a kid-friendly suggestion from Michele C.—Door Trail. The short round-trip hike offers stellar views of the rugged peaks and canyons that give this […]

  2. Mark wrote:

    Looking forward to shooting Sunrise Scenes of Door Trail. Any advice on where to stay the night before and how early to set out to get sunrise shots AND….likewise (details) for Milky Way shots over these scenic locations?

  3. I want to
    do the Notch Trail and I can climb up easier than I canclimb down with a bad knee. Can I come down without using the ladder,,??