How to Get to Badlands

How to Get to Badlands
The Badlands of South Dakota are home to the Lakota tribe, who refer to the area as "maco sica" because of its rugged landscape. The terrain is a picturesque masterpiece carved by millions of year's worth of erosion which has left behind spires, buttes and treacherously deep canyons. Amongst the jagged spikes of rock are colorful plains full of roaming bison, bighorn sheep, antelope and the elusive black footed ferret which is now a protected species. Loop Road provides spectacular views of the Badlands right from the window of your car and a combination of foot and bike trails will bring you face-to-face with the breathtaking features of the park.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

By Car or Plane

Things You’ll Need:
  • Vehicle Road Map GPS (global positioning system) Full gas tank Comfortable Hiking Shoes Water Hat
  • Vehicle
  • Road Map
  • GPS (global positioning system)
  • Full gas tank
  • Comfortable Hiking Shoes
  • Water
  • Hat
Step 1
Plot your trip. Decide exactly what you want to see, and in what order. Proper planning will ensure that you don't miss any of the spectacular sights that the Badlands has to offer. This is best done by obtaining a map of the park and marking down your points of interest. Maps can be obtained by mail from the National Park Service or directly from their Web site.
Step 2
Travel along I-90 towards Badlands National Park if you are coming in from the north. Interstate 90 will take you into the town of Wall, S.D., at Exit 110 off of I-90. From there you will catch State Road 240 south, which will lead you to the northeast entrance of the Badlands.
Step 3
Jump on U.S. Highway 20 if you are traveling in from areas that are south of Badlands National Park. Highway 20 will eventually lead you to U.S. highway 83 near Valentine, Neb., which you will take north to I-90. Once on I-90 look for Wall at Exit 110, and follow the exit to State Road 240 south. State Road 240 south will take you to the northeast entrance of Badlands National Park.
Step 4
Navigate toward Interstate 90 if you will be entering Badlands National Park from the East. I-90 will lead you into the tiny town of Cactus Flat, S.D., at Exit 131. From Exit 131, you can catch State Road 240 south which will lead you directly into the northeast entrance of the Badlands.
Step 5
Map out a route that directs you to I-90 if you will be traveling to Badlands National Park from the western United States. I-90 will take you into the town of Wall, S.D., at Exit 110. From the Wall exit, you will venture onto State Road 240 south which will take you right into the heart of the Badlands via the northeast entrance gate.
Step 6
Follow the scenic route for breathtaking views of the Badlands. State Route 44 runs from the northwest corner of the state all the way down to the southeastern corner of the state, and intersects with State Road 377 at the interior entrance of the Badlands at Cedar Pass Lodge.

On Foot

Step 1
Drive or walk over to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center at the interior entrance of the Badlands if you want to hike any of the developed trails that lead you deep into the heart of the park. The visitors' center can be used as a marker to point you in the direction of any of the seven trails that vary in length and degree of difficulty. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center also has maps that will make planning your hike easier.
Step 2
Try the quarter-mile Window and Fossil Exhibit Trails, accessible from the interior entrance if you are just a beginner. Both the Window Trail and the Fossil Exhibit Trail are wheelchair accessible and considered easy to navigate. The Window Trail offers a view of the eroded canyon and the Fossil Exhibit Trail is recommended for dinosaur enthusiasts.
Step 3
Hike the five-mile Castle Trail, half-mile Cliff Shelf Nature Trail or three-quarter-mile Door Trail if you are up for a moderate challenge. Each one of these trails is easily accessible from the interior gate and requires a pair of comfortable hiking shoes and good stamina. The Medicine Root Trail is within the Castle trail and offers peaceful solitude and a tranquil wildlife setting. The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail follows a man-made boardwalk with steps which climb approximately 200 feet above the Badlands, and the Door Trail offers a rugged hike through the Badland rock formations.
Step 4
Give the 1.5-mile Notch Trail and .3-mile Saddle Pass Trail a shot if you are feeling adventurous. The Notch Trail can be quite treacherous and involves a steep ladder climb. The Saddle Pass Trail is short, but very steep. The Saddle Pass Trail will lead you into the grasslands just above the Badlands Wall and the Notch Trail offers a breathtaking canyon view.

Badlands by Bike

Step 1
Take a ride on Loop Road which can be accessed from both the northeast entrance and the interior entrance. Loop Road offers awesome views and is a paved, bike-friendly way to see the Badlands.
Step 2
Ride your bike along Sage Creek Rim Road, which runs along the northern boundary line of the park. Sage Creek Rim Road is loaded with wildlife and offers picturesque views of the Badlands -- rock formations, pinnacles and all.
Step 3
Try the Sheep Mountain Table if you have an all-terrain mountain bike. The Sheep Mountain Table can be accessed from State Road 44 in between the North Unit and the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands.

Tips & Warnings

 
If you are interested in seeing the Badlands but prefer to stay off the beaten track, you may do so at your own risk. The Badlands offers approximately 64,000 acres of remote wilderness that can be taken on by the skilled hiker. But keep in mind that if you do choose to make your way into the park and travel the backwoods trails of the badlands for an extended period of time, you must camp within a half-mile of either a marked trail or road. If you will be traveling by plane to the Badlands of South Dakota, you will need to fly into Rapid City, S.D. This is the closest airport to the park; however, you will need to obtain a vehicle to travel the 80 miles from the Rapid City airport to Badlands National Park. There is an alternate route into the Badlands if you are traveling from the North. You may find it easier to take exit 131 off of I-90 depending on your location. Exit 131 takes you through the town of Cactus Flat, where you can catch State Road 240 south into Badlands National Park.
 
If you are interested in seeing the Badlands but prefer to stay off the beaten track, you may do so at your own risk. The Badlands offers approximately 64,000 acres of remote wilderness that can be taken on by the skilled hiker. But keep in mind that if you do choose to make your way into the park and travel the backwoods trails of the badlands for an extended period of time, you must camp within a half-mile of either a marked trail or road.
 
If you will be traveling by plane to the Badlands of South Dakota, you will need to fly into Rapid City, S.D. This is the closest airport to the park; however, you will need to obtain a vehicle to travel the 80 miles from the Rapid City airport to Badlands National Park.
 
There is an alternate route into the Badlands if you are traveling from the North. You may find it easier to take exit 131 off of I-90 depending on your location. Exit 131 takes you through the town of Cactus Flat, where you can catch State Road 240 south into Badlands National Park.
 
Do not make the mistake of traveling to Badlands National Park without a map or GPS. The Badlands are not the suburbs where you can stop and ask for directions if you get lost. Many areas of Badlands National Park are desolate, and if you get lost it can feel a bit unnerving. It is also a good idea to travel into the Badlands with a full tank of gas. If you run out of gas during your sightseeing adventure, it's a long walk back to the park gates. If you will be traveling on foot, always carry a sufficient amount of water. Minimum amounts are two quarts of water for every two hours of a hike. Also remember to wear proper footwear to avoid snake bites as well as cuts and scrapes. A hat to protect you from the sun is also recommended. Remember to keep at least 100 yards from any wildlife that you encounter while hiking. Wildlife can be unpredictable and dangerous, so give them their space.
 
Do not make the mistake of traveling to Badlands National Park without a map or GPS. The Badlands are not the suburbs where you can stop and ask for directions if you get lost. Many areas of Badlands National Park are desolate, and if you get lost it can feel a bit unnerving. It is also a good idea to travel into the Badlands with a full tank of gas. If you run out of gas during your sightseeing adventure, it's a long walk back to the park gates.
 
If you will be traveling on foot, always carry a sufficient amount of water. Minimum amounts are two quarts of water for every two hours of a hike. Also remember to wear proper footwear to avoid snake bites as well as cuts and scrapes. A hat to protect you from the sun is also recommended. Remember to keep at least 100 yards from any wildlife that you encounter while hiking. Wildlife can be unpredictable and dangerous, so give them their space.

Article Written By Eleanor Jewell

Eleanor Jewell started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jewell is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in education and a teacher certification.

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