Four Hours in Badlands National Park – Your Super Quick Guide | Black Hills Travel Blog

Four Hours in Badlands National Park – Your Super Quick Guide

  • Four Hours in Badlands National Park – Your Super Quick Guide
    Four Hours in Badlands National Park – Your Super Quick Guide
Updated: Thursday, May 9, 2019
By : 
Mike

We hear it all the time...and often with a tinge of panic. Visitors who are only passing through the region are shocked to discover all of the parksmonumentsattractions and unique things to do here in the Black Hills.

There's easily enough to fill five days or more, but with only a half-day of free time, they need to be strategic.

So, with that in mindhere's our guide to what to see and do in Badlands National Park with only four hours to spare. As any local would tell you, the Badlands are a must-see once you're here.

First and foremost, Badlands National Park is another world.

It's 244,000+ acres of wonderfully-colored spiresgorges, and ridgelines—with natural textures and hues that rival today's most popular Instagram filters. It is an artist's dreamscape forged by the elements over many, many centuriesHereerosion reveals Earth's history, one vibrantly-hued layer at a time.

So where to even begin?

Luckily for those just traveling through, the 31-mile Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD 240) winds through the heart the park. A few hours spent following its path is certainly a great option best route.

The road leads travelers to 15 different overlooks and eight trails, making it almost too easy to get more than enough jealous-inducing photos to share on Facebook. We recommend photo stops at Big Badlands Overlook, positioned on the east end of the loop, and the Pinnacles and Yellow Mounds overlooks, both closer to the west end of the loop. A stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, with its daily ranger programs and exhibits, is a great intro to the park and its story.

The drive and photo stops will fill a couple of hours, so with two more to go, we also recommend a short hike on one of the easily accessible park trails.

Trails

The Notch Trail channels hikers through a canyon before a climb up a surprise log-ladder, putting them on a ledge about half-way through. This ledge isn't dramatic but could prove too much for those with a fear of heights or wee-little ones. For those traveling with the previously mentioned in their group, nearby alternative trails include Door or Window.

More adventurous souls seeking their own path should venture onto Sage Creek Road, and into the Sage Creek Area on the western edge of the park. You can hike just about anywhere here, but remember that the Badlands terrain is a fragile and unforgiving landscape. The Sage Creek Area is also a great place to seek out diverse park wildlife. If time allows, check out neighboring Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, a chilling byproduct of the Cold War era, and then venture into Wall to visit the world-famous Wall Drug Store. Grab some free ice waterride a mythical jackalope (or bring home a mounted one for above the fireplace mantel) and get cultured by the unreal collection of Western art hanging throughout the cafe.

Getting to the Badlands

If traveling west on I-90, take Exit 131 (Interior) and follow the signs directing vehicles south—it's roughly three miles to the Northeast entrance of Badlands National Park.

For those traveling east on I-90, exit at 110 for Wall, South Dakota. Follow signs directing vehicles south seven miles to the Pinnacles Entrance.

From Rapid City, SD Hwy 44 provides a scenic back road to the park and meets up with SD Hwy 377 in the town of Interior. Follow Hwy 377 two miles north to the park's Interior Entrance.

About the Author

Mike, by accident he ended up in sales and marketing; Mike's education and background is in journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism.

Having spent most of his life in various South Dakota towns on the east-side of the Missouri River – like Huron, Vermillion, Brookings and Pierre – Mike followed a girl west to Spearfish.  He has thoroughly enjoyed the past thirteen years there.

What Mike loves most is time spent around the Hills with his family, whether it's in Spearfish Canyon, at a Black Hills attraction or at Spearfish City Park and the DC Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery. He also loves dusting off his camera every now and then for a shoot, making a good meal and washing it down with a great beer.

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