How to Camp in the Badlands

How to Camp in the Badlands
The unusual rock formations, fossil remnants, grassy prairies and rugged landscapes that make up Badlands National Park in South Dakota provide a spectacular and extreme environment for camping and hiking. When preparing to stay in Badlands it is important to be prepared for the chance of extreme weather conditions and potential dangers. There are two campsites to choose from, and backcountry camping is an option for the well prepared. Extremes in temperature, violent thunderstorms, high winds and the occasional tornado are all possibilities.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camera
  • Fresh water (at least 1 gallon per person per day)
  • Charcoal
  • Suncreen
  • Hat
  • Sturdy hiking boots
Step 1
Choose between the two campsites in Badlands National Park. Cedar Pass Campground is the larger of the two and provides more amenities, including flushing toilets and cold running water. Sage Creek Campground is more remote; access is by unpaved roads and there is no onsite water. There are, however, pit toilets and covered picnic tables. No reservations are needed to camp in Badlands---the campsites operate on a first-come-first-served basis.
Step 2
Decide how many nights you want to camp. You must bring all necessary provisions for your entire stay.
Step 3
Travel to the southwest region of South Dakota. Take public transport or fly into to Rapid City, 80 miles west of the park. Take I-90 to Exit 131 when traveling west, or to Exit 110 if traveling east. State Highway 44 is a scenic alternative.
Step 4
Enter the park by driving, hiking or cycling---there is no public transportation service within its boundaries. Pay entrance fees of $15 per vehicle or $7 if hiking or biking in.
Step 5
Stop by the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on the "Badlands Loop Road" (Highway 240). Pick up a visitors' guide and consult with park rangers about the latest weather forecast and trail conditions.
Step 6
At Cedar Pass Campground, pay $10 at the self-service station to get a camping permit. Sage Creek Campground is free.
Step 7
Explore Badlands National Park. When hiking, wear sturdy hiking boots for safety on rugged terrain, and stay on designated trails. Don't miss highlights including the Highway 240 Loo Road and Robert's Prairie Dog Town.

Tips & Warnings

Drink plenty of water, at least one gallon per person per day.
Always wear closed-toe shoes when walking around the park to protect your feet from cactus spines.
Never take any rocks, fossils, plants or other natural souvenirs.
Be aware of rattlesnakes and poisonous spiders.
Stay at least 100 yards away from wildlife.

Article Written By J.C. Lewis

J.C. Lewis is the editor and co-owner of a weekly newspaper, as well as a staffer and regular contributor to a group of three newspapers in Los Angeles, Calif. Her writing has appeared on, and various other websites. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Science in politics from the University of Bristol, England.

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