Video: 5 things to see in The Badlands, South Dakota

I never thought erosion could be interesting…

Then I went to The Badlands National park in South Dakota where the slow change brought to the earth by millions of years of wind and rain has created a stunningly beautiful landscape straight out of a 1960s sci-fi movie.

Driving across South Dakota you notice the land changing all the time.

The beautiful scenery of the Badlands Double-Barrelledtravel

The Badlands… a place like no other we’ve seen

On the eastern side the state is very hilly and lush, then it flattens out and becomes a giant farm with vast grassland, fields of corn, paddocks full of cows and dusty towns as far as the eye can see.

Then the flat land runs out suddenly – and you’ve arrived at The Badlands.

Poor Carmen was very sick with food poisoning as we explored the park but we made sure to do as many activities as we could, though I did have to hike on my own.

View of the Badlands South Dakota Double-Barrelledtravel

Who wouldn’t want to go hiking when the scenery in The Badlands is this good?


Here are 5 things to see in The Badlands

1. Sunrise and sunset

On our first day in The Badlands we camped at a site with a magnificent view of one of the highest bluffs and as the sun set we sat in our folding chairs and watched the show. The light painted the rocks deepening shades of orange until the sky turned purple.

The next morning we woke very early and Carmen pointed out how beautiful the rising sun looked.

But we both fell back asleep and missed it…

The next day I made sure to set an alarm and trekked out into a valley all by myself.

I heard coyotes howling as the sun stirred and felt very alone! But when the light burst up from the ridge line and bathed the rocks I was treated to a view I will never forget.

Sunset over the Badlands Double-Barrelledtravel

The sun rising over The Badlands… a sight to behold

2. Hike up a bluff

Don’t let the signs warning you to beware of rattlesnakes scare you.

The Badlands National Park is quite unique in that you are allowed to wander pretty much wherever you want as long as you are respectful and don’t do anything stupid, like sticking your arm into a dark crevice ( where rattlesnakes like to live).

Rattlesnakes sign in the Badlands Double-Barrelledtravel

We saw lots of these signs but didn’t actually see a snake

There are several walking tracks but because of the difficult terrain the paths are more like suggestions.

I chose a path that snaked up a rocky bluff and led me through a few tight spots where the ground was loose and the rocks were sharp.

But I made it to the top and was very glad I’d pushed myself to do it. The view looked like the African savannah or something from an artist’s wild imagination and I got some great photos.

3. Go to a Ranger talk

Just about every night in the summer time Rangers from the US Parks Service give talks on the animals, topography and history of The Badlands.

We were right on time for a talk about the night sky but a lick of low lying cloud spoiled that. So the Ranger switched to another topic that she knew plenty about – owls.

A bunny rabbit in the Badlands Double-Barrelledtravel

There’s lots of wildlife to see in The Badlands. Look how well this rabbit blends in to its surroundings

She showed us all of the species of owl that live in The Badlands and also tried to dispel a few of the myths about these birds.

The funniest was that people often think they can turn their heads in a complete circle; but she explained that they are simply able to snap their necks back and forth very quickly making it look like what the girl does in the film The Exorcist.

4. Visit Wall Drug

You have little choice in this. Whether you drive in from the west or the east by the time you reach The Badlands you will have seen so many signs urging you to visit Wall Drug that you just have to go!

Wall Drug is a sprawling store that sells everything from food, books and coffee to souiveniers and T-shirts.

But it’s unique in the fact that it’s been around since 1931 from when there were only 300 people living in the small town of Wall.

The coolest thing on display are black and white photographs of the American Indians and early settlers who lived in this part of the world.

Wall Drug Store in South Dakota Double-Barrelledtravel

The crazy Wall Drug store

5. Look for Buffalo

The grasslands of America were once teeming with huge herds of buffalo but they were hunted to the brink of extinction. In recent years there has been a huge effort to rekindle their stocks and tracts of grassland have been set aside for them to graze on unmolested.

A section of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland is right outside the park limits of The Badlands and if you drive to one end of the loop road you can cut through it.

We were lucky to see one of these huge beasts, but made sure to stay in the car.

Apparently they can be very dangerous as well as delicious.

As always we’d love to read your comments!

Have you been to The Badlands? What did you think? Or would you like to go?

Stuffed buffalo at Wall Drug in South Dakota Double-Barrelledtravel

Get up and close with the buffalo in The Badlands. Maybe not this close though…

What you need to know:

How to get there – Badlands National Park is located 75 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s best to get there by car.

How much – We paid $15 for a 7 day pass for a vehicle. Individuals on foot (hikers) are $7 and motorcycles pay $10.

When to go Any time though summer and spring is best.




About the author

Dave is the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel and has been nomadic since May 2013. When he's not busily working on a novel, he can be found exploring a war museum, sailing a yacht (unfortunately not his own), or hiking up a mountain.

6 comments on “Video: 5 things to see in The Badlands, South Dakota”

  1. Arianwen Reply

    I don’t think I’d get so close to a buffalo! I love your comment about never being a fan of erosion before. It doesn’t sound so appealing when you put it that way, but there are some incredible national parks in the States formed in just the same way 🙂

  2. Mike Norton Reply

    Great story and photos, guys! I’m glad you made it to the Badlands — although it sounds like Carmen wasn’t really able to appreciate them as much as might have been wished. Thanks for all the lovely Traverse City articles, too — please come back and see us again sometime!

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Thanks Mike! Illness aside we loved The Badlands, in fact it’s hard to fault America’s natural beauty – we met a guy who said ‘oh this is nothing; most of the west looks like this,’ but it’s not a competition is it? If we can get back to Traverse City we will, another slice of that pie is on the redo list!

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