As previously stated, the Badlands is one of my favorite places I have visited. I feel it is extremely overlooked. While there is not a lot of hiking, the views from some of the pull offs in the park make up for the lack of exploring you can do at this National Park. There is no shade on any of trails in the park so make sure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and wear a hat.
Where to Stay
Wall, South Dakota
When visiting Badlands National Park, most people stay in Wall, SD. Wall is located North of the Badlands National Park. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of this town for most people. There are tons of attractions, shops, and restaurants to choose from, as well as many affordable hotels, motels, and campgrounds. However, growing up in Tennessee, I can compare it to “The Gatlinburg of the Smoky Mountains.” If you enjoy that type of town and enjoy being around attractions, then Wall is the place for you! Even if you do not decide to stay in Wall, it is worth a visit to have dinner and to walk around and see the town. The National Grasslands Visitor Center is also located in Wall and is a very interesting place to visit and learn more about the Grasslands in the United States.
Interior, South Dakota
Interior is located south of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. There are a few campgrounds and one motel between the visitor center and the small town of Interior. The original plan was to tent camp at Badlands Interior Campground. However, it was very rainy and windy, so luckily the campground also had a motel. The staff was friendly, and did not charge for cancelling our campsite reservation for a motel room. If you would like to check out this campground/motel, here is a link to their website: https://www.badlandsinteriorcampground.com/
Where to Eat
Wall Drug Store Cafe
While we did not personally eat here, my parents had lunch here when they stayed in Wall. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Typical American style menu with burgers, chicken, and homemade desserts. Wall Drug Store Cafe is located on the main downtown strip of Wall, you can’t miss it!
Here is a link to their website: http://www.walldrug.com/things-to-do/restaurant
Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill
If you want a small town bar menu and a cold beer, this is the place for you! Your choices on food are limited, but your choice on alcohol is large. My one suggestion: get the cheeseballs. The food was great, the beer was cold, and the atmosphere was laid back.
Here is a link to their Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Bar/Wagon-Wheel-Bar-and-Grill-102210229908005/
Where to go
Prairie Dogs Field
I am a kid at heart, and o.m.g. did we hit the jackpot entering Badlands on SD – 240. When heading on 240 from Interstate 90 towards Interior, on your right will be Badlands Ranch Store. You will know you are there when you see the BIG prairie dog statue. Basically, you can get as close as you can to the prairie dogs and cry happy tears. Prairie dogs are the cutest animals on this planet and no one will ever change my mind. In my opinion, this is a must do!
Ben Reifler Visitor Center
This is kind of a “DUH,” but I always love going into Visitor Centers. I always head straight for the cancellation stamps for my passport book. Did I mention I am a kid at heart? You can also receive tons of information and park maps at the visitor centers. As well as souvenirs for your family and friends.
Fossil Exhibit Boardwalk
This kid friendly boardwalk is technically a trail, but I would consider it more of a place to go in the park. The boardwalk has interpretive panels with fossil replicas you can read along the way.
What Trails to Hike
If you have looked into visiting the Badlands, this has surely popped up in your searches. Notch Trail is a very interesting trail and why it is the number 1 rated trail in the park. AllTrails rates the in and out hike as moderate and is only 1.3 miles long. I feel the only part of the trail that is moderate is the ladder you have to climb. I really enjoyed this hike and it was only one out of two we were able to hike due to the fact it started raining as soon as we got back to the car and did not stop until after we left. Be considerate when you get to the ladder. When we were descending, a couple decided to climb up at the same time and were completely rude telling us to “move.” Be nice, folks.
This trail is a bit on the lengthy side at 10.5 miles and is rated moderate on AllTrails. Many of the comments say it is an easy hike, however. People also say that while it is a beautiful hike, it can become a bit boring because the scenery is the same throughout the loop trail.
From the same parking lot for Notch Trail, you can take an easy breezy short .8 mile walk to some amazing views. Great for kids and non-hikers to enjoy. You can also see beautiful flowering plants along the way.
Where to Stop
Winding through the park is a 31 mile scenic drive with many pull-outs and overlooks where you can see some amazing sights of the Badlands. Here are a few must stops along the scenic drive.
- White River Valley Overlook
- Yellow Mounds Overlook
- Pinnacles Overlook
- Big Badlands Overlook
Hopefully if you were on the fence on whether or not to take time to visit the Badlands, my post has convinced you to not miss this National Park! If there is anything I forgot to mention or you have any questions, leave a comment below!