Hiking Badlands National Park

Hiking Badlands National ParkBadlands National Park is in southwestern South Dakota. It contains a mixture of prairie, rock formations and eroded structures such as buttes in its 244,000 acres. Hiking is one of the favorite activities of visitors to this park. The whole park is open to hikers, and there are several named trails from which to choose. There are also certain rules that should be followed to ensure one's safety. (Pictured: Cliff Shelf Trail, Badlands National Park, South Dakota)

Safety tips

All hikers are urged to have a good supply of water with them and to drink at least one gallon each day while hiking. In the summer, when temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, sunglasses and a hat should be worn. There is the threat of heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Hikers need to be aware that weather conditions in this part of the country change without warning sometimes. Rain gear that can be brought along can come in handy. Weather forecasts should be checked before going out. The wildlife in the area that presents a potential danger includes bison and prairie rattlesnakes. These should never be approached. There is a great risk of wildfires in Badlands National Park. Hikers are not permitted to start fires for any reason.


Cliff Shelf Trail (pictured at top)

The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail is a half mile long. It takes about 30 minutes to hike through. A guide can be paid for prior to the hike at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The trail meanders through trees as well as prairie. There are boardwalks and stairs to traverse. The rise in elevation is about 200 feet. There is an excellent vista of the White River Valley along the trail.

Door and Window Trails

The Door Trail is three quarters of a mile long and has a geological theme to it. The "Door" is actually an opening in the wall of a rock formation that hikers can look through. The trail turns rugged after the initial 100 yards, which are paved. Hikers are urged to stay on the trail since it is easy to become lost. The Window Trail can be accessed in a wheelchair by those skilled enough to make their way on it. The "Window" is another opening that offers a glimpse at a canyon eroded by the forces of nature. The Window Trail is about a quarter mile in length.

Notch Trail

The 1.5-mile-long Notch Trail should be avoided by people who detest heights, as it makes its way through a canyon. A high ladder must be climbed and a ledge crossed. The reward is great in terms of the scenery below. The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the sights that can be seen from this trail.

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