Badlands National Park — Physical/Mailing Address: 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750, Phone: (605) 433-5361 Website: https://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm
With a name like Badlands, it’s understandable that visitors might think twice about coming to this national park and instead choose one with a more welcoming title. The name (“mako sica” or “bad land”) was awarded to the area by the local Lakota, according to the park’s website, while early French trappers referred to it as “les mauvaises terres à traverser” or “bad lands to travel across.”
The climate at South Dakota’s Badlands National Park might be a factor, with temperature extremes ranging from 116 degrees to -40 F, and sudden and dramatic weather changes common. But as long as you are adequately prepared for the unexpected, take safety precautions and follow park regulations, you’ll be able to enjoy the rugged beauty of the park’s 244,000 acres.
While its original inhabitants such as the saber-toothed cat are long gone, the park is still home to bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets in its mixed-grass prairie. Curious about those ancient inhabitants? Stop in at the Fossil Preparation Lab in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center where you can watch paleontologists at work.
Or if you’re into the stars, schedule your visit to coincide with the Annual Badlands Astronomy Festival. The three-day celebration includes daily family-friendly activities and evening presentations with special guest speakers, with nightly telescope viewing sponsored by the NPS Night Sky Program and Celestron.
Here are more details about Badlands National Park from its website.
Badlands National Park has focused on providing numerous ways for those with accessibility needs to enjoy the area. Both the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and White River Visitor Center offers access for wheelchair users, and the Ben Reifel also has a tactile exhibit, with fossils and rocks available for touch.
Prefer to picnic? You can choose either Bigfoot Pass Picnic Area or Conata Picnic Area. As for overlooks and trails, the Fossil Exhibit and Window Trails and the first section of the Door and Cliff Shelf Trails are accessible boardwalks.
More information for those with accessibility needs is available here.
Entrance Passes and Other Fees
- Vehicle: $25. Valid for seven days.
- Motorcycle: $15. Valid for seven days.
- Single/per person (bicycle and walk-in): $12. Valid for seven days.
- Annual Badlands pass: $50. This pass admits a single, private, non-commercial vehicle and its occupants into the park. This pass does not include camping or give any type of discount at stores inside the park.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are permanently disabled are eligible for the Interagency Access Pass. This free, lifetime admission pass is valid at National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Reclamation sites. For more information or to download an application, visit https://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm.
Badlands National Park also has Special Use Permits (SUPs) for specific events or activities that provide a benefit to an individual, group, or organization, rather than the public at large as well as for activities that require some degree of management by the National Park Service to protect park resources and the public interest.
The park has two campgrounds: Cedar Pass Campground and Sage Creek Campground. Cedar Pass has cold running water, flush toilets, and covered picnic tables, with four campsites available for organized groups with a designated leader. It also has two campsites full accessible by wheelchair as well as an accessible site in the group loop. (Note: these are available on a first-come, first-served basis.)
The more rustic Sage Creek (located on the west side of the park’s North Unit) has pit toilets (including accessible vault toilets) and covered picnic tables but no water is available on-site. Access is located off of the Sage Creek Rim Road, an unpaved road that may temporarily close after winter storms and spring rains. The road provides limited turnarounds for large recreational vehicles, and motor homes, pull behind trailers, and other recreational vehicles greater than 18 feet in length are prohibited.
Rules and Regulations
While pets are allowed in most park locations, the park prohibits pets in the Wilderness area, other backcountry areas, on hiking trails, and in areas closed to motor vehicles. Pets can’t be left unattended and must be kept on a leash no more than six feet in length at all times. Owners must clean up animal waste and dispose of it in trash receptacles.
Service animals are allowed on trails and in public buildings, but they must be kept on a leash at all times and, due to potentially infectious wildlife diseases, are not allowed in areas with prairie dog colonies. (More about bringing pets and service animals to the Badlands here.)