Badlands National Park
South Dakota, USA
IN A NUTSHELL
The Sioux Indians once called this place Mako Sica which translates to “bad land”. They called this place the Badlands because they were frustrated with the rocky terrain. It is now a national park in South Dakota and a great national park for children. Everyone is welcome to hike, climb the bizarre natural structures, view the wildlife that walk right up to the car, and search for fossils in the dirt!
WHAT TO DO/SEE
Unusual Scenery. The Badlands has some truly amazing and unique sights. The rock formations look like art the way they are weathered by the wind and stand straight up. The horizontal stripes in the rocks tell a story of the history. Even without knowing the story of what kind of minerals each stripe is made up of or how/why that stripe is there, the stripes in the rocks are interesting, nonetheless. Horizontal stripes, vertical columns, and shades of red make this place worth the visit!
Wildlife. Coyote, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bull elk, black bear, bison [buffalo], and prairie dogs.
The prairie dogs are funny. They run around out of their holes and as you approach, they all scurry back to the top of their holes, sit outside of it, and
make this little squeaky bark. If you walk closer to them, they bark more furiously and eventually dodge for cover in their hole.
Hiking. There are many hiking trails that take you to great overlooks and on most trails you are able to climb and walk all over the rocks [unlike other national parks where they make you stay on the designated trail or else you’ll get a find of sometimes over $5,000].The bighorn sheep and buffalo walk right on the road and don’t care about oncoming vehicles. If you open the window of the car, you can pretty much touch them!
Fossil Hunting. Although there are fossils all over The Badlands, there is one place within the park that you are actually allowed to jump off the walkway and dig around for fossils yourself! Go into the visitor center and they’ll show you a fossil as an example of what to look for. Then go out and play in the dirt and see if you can find some! This is super fun for kids [and adults]!
Picnic areas and one restaurant.
There are picnic areas all over the park if you bring your own food but there is also one restaurant. If you miss this restaurant and get hungry later, you’re out of luck – there is nothing else in the park and the nearest town is abandoned. So either stop and eat or bring enough food to last you the day.
Gas up outside of the park – there are no gas stations within the park!
WHERE TO STAY
If you decide to stay overnight in the park, there are few campgrounds where you can camp for FREE! This is rare – I hardly ever find completely free campgrounds – no guard at a gate, no registration… just drive in and pitch a tent for free. They do, however, ask that you please camp in the designated camping areas and not just anywhere you feel like sleeping within the park.
$15 per car for as long as you’d like
Planning on making a trip to The Badlands? If so, you might also be interested in learning more about Custer, South Dakota.