Exploring the Badlands

Our original plan was to camp in Badlands National Park. We highly underestimated the amount of awesome things we would see on the way, so we ended up only spending the day there. If you are ever in the area and want to camp, there are campground where you can pay a small fee but there is also a primitive campground that is free!


The entrance fee was $25, but it was very well worth it. You could spend days in this park and still not be able to take everything in.


In the park there are not many fenced off areas, so for the most part you can walk or hike where you please…but not without caution.


There were many beware of rattlesnake signs. Actually, after we saw one of these signs we pretty much instantly heard a rattling in the bushes. We didn’t investigate and kept on walking on the designated trail.

There were several areas like this that had easy to navigate pathways


We saw bison from a distance, but we also got to see some other wildlife a little closer.


When we started to see prairie dog mounds, I got excited. Then, I saw this sign.


Needless to say, this startled me a bit. As long as you follow these simple rules though, you should most likely not contract the plague.


The Badlands were overall quite amazing. Seeing these natural formations out there in the middle of South Dakota is something I can’t really put into words.



If you are a fan of National Parks, this is definitely a must see. There was no shortage of photo opportunities.


Have you visited the Badlands? What’s your favorite National Park?




53 thoughts on “Exploring the Badlands

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  1. Have enjoyed past trips there with the kids–back then carefree because they didn’t warn of rattlesnakes and plague! I’m sure at least the snakes were around. But it’s a wonderful place, as most of the National Parks are. Keep up your travels, and thanks for taking a look at my Arlington America blog!

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  2. I visited the Badlands in May, but unfortunately we were not able to hike for time and health reasons. What amazed me was looking from afar and seeing a vast prairie, then suddenly there’s what seems like an unexpected drop off and there are the Badlands! I also loved the strips of color that ran through all the formations. Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park in ND was similar. Did you see the giant prairie dog statue at the exit from the park??

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  3. In my younger days I toured the Badlands. Then later I got to revisit them, sort of, when I saw the movie “Dances with Wolves.” That was a really net place, pretty hot I would say, and the grass was just like it was in the movie. Maybe one day i will get to go back.

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    1. Ok, so I actually looked into this! I was curious, too. According to the NPS, The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. In the early 1900’s, French-Canadian fur trappers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.” I thought that was interesting!


  4. I got to visit the. Adlamds when I was in my mid 20’s in the 1970’s. I believe we could smell the buffalo but I could be wrong. And yes many years later when I was recovering from heart surgery I saw Dancing with Wolves and the tall grass and prairie was just as I had remembered it.

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  5. I was amazed by the Badlands. During a trip cross-country, I imagined South Dakota would be bland and boring; was I ever totally wrong! It was very hot when I was there, May perhaps. We had to explore at dawn to beat the heat. On a ranger led hike we learned about the landscape and fossils from the area. It was very interesting, and a new fossil was discovered during the walk.
    I would highly recommend a visit; just be sure you are prepared for the weather conditions for the season.

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  6. Great post, loved the clay pyramid. Here is a related factoid: Historically, plague was (and is) endemic to marmots (AKA woodchucks) in what is now Mongolia. A siege technique of the Mongolian Horde was to catapult plague victim corpses into a besieged city.

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  7. Love this post! I love the NPS and would have a very difficult time choosing my fave park. The Petrified Forest is very cool. Also, I love Bryce Canyon. Not been to Badlands, but it is on my list. Great photos you have there! Thank you for visiting my blog, I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

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    1. I definitely agree with you about the Grand Canyon. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen! I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting Bryce Canyon yet, but I hope to one day 🙂


  8. Lovely post! I spent a few days in the Petrified Forest and each day was incredible. Decided to camp there and was so startled to see the sign stating that cases of Bubonic Plague were reported. No camping for me! But never regretted my days in the park.

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  9. We visited the Badlands for the first time just about a year ago. It was too amazing to put into words and our too-short visit was on a bright, bright, sunny day so the photographs really couldn’t do the place justice. The rattlesnake signs got our attention, too. Glad we didn’t encounter the plague sign! We definitely plan to return. (btw, thanks for stopping by my blog.) My post about this part of our big road trip is here: https://livingonthediagonal.com/2017/05/12/the-grand-road-trip-part-i/

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  10. We visited the Badlands in 2000, when my children were 10 and 12. It was one of the last stops on an epic trip out west so I don’t think we fully appreciated it. We visited several National Parks on that trip. My favorites were Zion, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We ended up with a pet prairie dog for about 3 years – but not from that trip. Fun little creatures.

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