Badlands Loop Road -- 2,440'

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park protects an amazing quarter-million acre landscape of towering spires, buttes, multi-colored cliffs, and expansive prairies. It’s pristine also, a fabulous condition caused directly by its foreboding and inhospitable terrain. Hundreds of years ago the Lakota Sioux dubbed this area “mako sica”, translated literally as “land bad”. Later French explorers were no less positive with their descriptors…”les mauvais terres pour traverse” or, “bad lands to travel through”. Either way it’s not hard to see why these historic visitors regarded it as such when you gaze out over the barren and broken landscape. Thankfully, modern access now allows newcomers to see the Badlands through a different lens. It has lost none of its wild nature, to be sure, but now the desolate and rugged terrain can be appreciated for its beauty as well. The scenic beauty of the Badlands was appreciated early on, with South Dakota considering it as necessary to preserve as early as 1909. Through work of local conservationists Badlands National Monument was officially designated thirty years later, in 1939. As a National Park, Badlands is actually quite new…only gaining this highest level of protection in 1978. Today the park is a popular one, though it thankfully never sees the crowds of more famous parks to the west. The Northern Unit is the most developed, with numerous short trails crisscrossing it and a paved 30-mile park road providing access to the most dramatic portions of the landscape. The parks larger South Unit is all but undeveloped, offering a true wilderness experience to the modern day explorer, and is co-managed with the local Oglala Lakota Nation.

What follows below isn’t a true hiking album, in the tradition of most of my pages, but rather involves a tour of the main park loop road. Pictured here are a few shots from along the road itself, numerous shots from most of the official overlooks along said road, and even quick tours of a couple of the minor trails located in the Cedar Pass Area of the park. If you want a true ‘boots-on-the-ground’ tour I’d invite you to follow up a look through this album with my gallery of the Castle Trail, which I hiked later on this same day. Either way, I hope this album gives you a good first taste of what this remarkable park has to offer. Badlands National Park is a place all unto its own…and one that should be high on the list of any potential National Park vacation. That said, let’s hop in the car shall we? Let’s start our quick road tour of South Dakota’s Badlands…as always, ENJOY!!


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