Eroded rock formations with distinct layers of sediment under a clear blue sky in Badlands National Park, illustrating the park's unique and rugged landscape. The image highlights the dramatic scenery and geological features visitors can explore when visiting Badlands.

Visiting Badlands National Park: The Complete Guide for 2024

Located in the heart of South Dakota, Badlands National Park is a striking landscape of rugged beauty and dramatic contrasts. Known for its sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires, this park offers a unique and surreal experience for visitors. Whether you’re eager to hike through the park’s unique terrain, marvel at its colorful rock formations, or encounter its diverse wildlife, we’ll equip you with all the tips and insights to make the most of your visit to this extraordinary destination.

If you are planning a trip to Badlands National Park and need some help planning your trip, this is our starter guide for visiting Badlands National Park. We often have detailed, in-depth guides to Badlands National Park trip planning and will link to these where appropriate to make your trip planning as easy as possible.

The article will discuss all aspects of visiting Badlands National Park, including:

  • Maps of Badlands National Park
  • General Information about Badlands
  • How to Make the Most of Your Visit
  • Best Things to do in Badlands
  • Nearby National Parks

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Table of Contents

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Articles about Badlands National Park

Itineraries for Badlands National Park

Downloadable Itineraries for Badlands National Park

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Badlands National Park Activity Guides

Road Trips that Include Badlands National Park

Map of Badlands National Park

This map outlines Badlands National Park with areas like the Pinnacles Entrance, White River Visitor Center, and numerous trails and overlooks. The map also includes adjacent regions like Buffalo Gap National Grassland and Pine Ridge Reservation.

Click on the Badlands Map above to download the official brochure map. If you’d like a PDF copy of this Badlands Map click here.

Badlands National Park Basics

  • Region: Midwest / Central Plains
  • State: South Dakota
  • Park Size: 242,756 acres (379.31 sq miles) (982.4 sq km)
  • Location: Pennington, Jackson and Shannon counties and Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation)
  • Closest Cities: Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Busy Season: June to September
  • Visitation: 1,046,400 (in 2023)
  • Funniest 1-Star Review: “So we left yellowstone at midnight and drove overnight straight to badlands. When we arrived my comment was “this is it?”. Badlands is basically washed out hills  of 50,000 year old mud. You have vast grasslands on one side, and old mud on the other. And the mud wasn’t even differently colored layers or have any other redeeming qualities. It was brown.
  • Official Website:

How much does Badlands National Park Cost?

Badlands National Park costs the following:

  • 7-day Passenger Vehicle Pass – $30
  • 7-day Motorcycle Pass – $25
  • 7-day Individual Pass – $7
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When is Badlands National Park Open?

Badlands National Park is open year-round.

Are dogs allowed in Badlands National Park?

Yes, pets are welcome in Badlands National Park but are limited to developed areas such as roads, parking areas, picnic areas, and campgrounds. Pets are not allowed on the trails in the park. Please review the Badlands Pet Policy before bringing your dog to Badlands.

  • Pets are prohibited from hiking trails, public buildings (i.e. visitor centers), and backcountry areas, including the Badlands Wilderness Area, and areas with prairie dog colonies.
  • Pet etiquette dictates always cleaning up animal waste and disposing of it in trash receptacles.

Where are Badlands National Park’s visitor centers?

  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center – Open Year Around
  • White River Visitor Center – Summer Only

Land Acknowledgment

The park, now known as Badlands National Park, is on Cheyenne, Mnicoujou, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, and Oohenumpa land.

Thank you to the Native Land Digital for making the Indigenous territories accessible to all. They have mapped the known territories to the best of the current knowledge and is a work in progress. If you have additional information on the Indigenous nations boundaries, please let them know.

Native Land Digital is a registered Canadian not-for-profit organization with the goal to creates spaces where non-Indigenous people can be invited and challenged to learn more about the lands they inhabit, the history of those lands, and how to actively be part of a better future going forward together.

How Much Time Should I Spend Visiting Badlands National Park?

If you have a couple of hours in Badlands National Park, hike Notch trail and Window Trail

If you have one day in Badlands National Park, drive the Badlands Loop Road and Sage Creek Rim Road.

If you have two days in Badlands National Park, hike Castle Trail.

If you have three or more days in Badlands National Park, go fossil hunting, explore the Stronghold unit of Badlands (check with Visitor Center about access).

Looking for an easy-to-follow National Park itinerary? Check out our National Park Itineraries. Let National Park Obsessed’s founder design the perfect itineary just for you. Get a Custom National Park Itinerary Here. Or do you just want to chat 1-on-1 with a Natioanl Park planning expert? Book a National Park Travel Consultation.

Things to do in Badlands National Park

Hiking in Badlands National Park

  • Notch Trail – 1.5 miles (round trip) – 120 ft elevation gain – A short hike with a log ladder to climb to a dramatic view of White River Valley.
  • Saddle Pass Trail – 0.7 miles (round trip) – 210 ft elevation gain – A short but steep hike with a nice view of the White River Valley.
  • Medicine Root Loop – 4.5 miles (round trip)- 330 ft elevation gain – A rolling trail through mixed grass prairie with views of the Badlands.
  • Castle Trail – 10.3 miles (round trip) – 305 ft elevation gain – A long day hike through some of Badland’s best landscapes.

Best Things to Do in Badlands National Park

  • Badlands Road Loop
  • Fossil Exhibit Trail
  • Junior Ranger Badge
  • Sage Creek Rim Road
  • Stargazing
  • Wildlife Watching

Best Things to See in Badlands National Park

  • White River Valley
  • Ancient Hunters Overlook
  • Yellow Mounds Overlook
  • Roberts Prairie Dog Town
  • Fossil Preparation Lab
  • Door/Window Trail

Best Guided Tours of Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Wildlife

  • Bison
  • Big Horn Sheep
  • Prairie Dogs
  • Black-footed Ferret
  • Pronghorn
  • Prairie Falcon

Where to stamp your National Parks Passport Book in Badlands National Park?

The National Park Passport Book is the BEST and cheapest National Park souvenir. Every National Park Obsessed person should have one of these books.

If you are new to the National Parks, you can learn more about the National Parks Passport program here or jump right in by ordering:

IMPORTANT: Do NOT stamp your government-issued passport.

There are two official stamps for Badlands National Park. Here is the list of National Park Passport Stamps you can get in Badlands National Park:

  • Ben Reifel VC – Interior, SD
  • White River Visitor Center, SD

Bonus Stamps

  • Badlands National Park Bingo
  • Badlands NP, SD
  • Badlands Park Ranger
  • Image of Badlands Hills and Bison
  • Junior Ranger
  • OSPRA South Unit
  • OSPRA WRVC South Unit

Badlands National Park Passport Stamp Locations

Here are all the locations to find the Badlands National Park Passport Stamps. Not every stamp is available at every location.

  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center
  • White River Visitor Center

National Parks Near Badlands National Park

National Park Service units within a 4 hours drive

  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
  • Devils Tower National Monument
  • Fort Laramie National Historic Site
  • Jewel Cave National Monument
  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
  • Missouri National Recreational River
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Niobrara National Scenic River
  • Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • Wind Cave National Park

National Park Service units within an 8 hours drive

Final Thoughts on Badlands National Park

Do you have any questions about Badlands National Park, let us know in the comments below or need help planning your National Park trips. Let me know in the comments or join me in my National Park Trip Planning Community!

Pin for Later: The Complete Guide to Visiting Badlands National Park in 2024

Are you planning a trip to Badlands National Park? Click here for the complete guide to visiting Badlands National Park written by a National Park Expert.
Hi, I'm Jennifer!

Welcome to the wonderful world of National Parks. I'm here to help you plan your NEXT amazing adventure through the United States National Parks and beyond. I want the national parks to be accessible to all.

I live in Tennessee, and when I'm home, you can find me hiking in the Smokies and the Cumberland Plateau.

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On this site, we promote travel to the United States and beyond that are the traditional lands of  Indigenous and First Nations peoples.

With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to these lands’ past and present people.

To learn more about the people who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.


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