Staying In And Around Badlands
Accommodations for overnight stays in the Badlands are limited. Its imperative that you make reservations in advance.
CabinsCedar Pass Lodge is actually a collection of cabins near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The cabin interiors are lined with fallen beetle kill pine from the Black Hills and furnished with handcrafted lodgepole pine furniture from a family-owned company in Montana. Outside, you can lounge in pine deck chairs while you take in views of the Badlands. Pet-friendly cabins are available for an extra fee. Cedar Pass Lodge is open late April through late October.
Other lodging outside of the park includes Badlands Inn and Badlands Budget Host Motel in Interior.
CampgroundsCedar Pass Campground offers both tent and RV sites with electric hookups only. Pay showers and flush toilets are available. There are no trees, but each campsite has a shade awning over a picnic table. The campground is open from early April through mid-October.
If you stay in the park, youll have front row seats to the stunning sunsets. Afterwards, you can catch the ranger-led stargazing program at the Cedar Pass Amphitheater.
The Complete Guide To Camping In Badlands National Park
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Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of the Americas most unique National Parks. The stunning landscape of sand colored buttes, towering rock formations, and one of the United States largest areas of grassland prairie make this a truly unique place to visit. We think the best way to experience all that the Badlands has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where youll feel as close to this stunning landscape as possible.
Badlands National Park and the surrounding area have tons of options for camping from the two campgrounds located in the park to remote backcountry camping and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.
Keep reading to get all the details about camping at Badlands National Park!
Hotels Near Badlands National Park
Most of the overnight accommodations are in the neighboring town of Wall, located just north of the Pinnacles Entrance of the park. Including the few options found in the towns of Interior and Kadoka, almost all hotel options near Badlands National Park fall in the mid-range category, meaning you’ll get a comfortable stay for a great price.
- Hotels in Wall: All the hotels and inns in Wall can be found within blocks of each other, resulting in competitive prices no matter where you go. The Best Western Plains Motel on Glen Street provides clean and comfortable rooms, as well as free breakfast and access to the indoor and outdoor pools.
- In the town of Interior, the Badlands Interior Motel and Campground features 22 spacious motel rooms, in addition to its camping options, with access to a swimming pool, convenience store, and wide-open surroundings.
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Know Where To Camp In Your Rv
Badlands National Park has two campgrounds: Cedar Pass Lodge Campground and Sage Creek Campground. For most RVs, Cedar Pass Lodge Campground is the only option as Sage Creek can only accommodate vehicles 18 feet in length or shorter.
The Cedar Pass Lodge Campground is located walking distance from the Cedar Pass Lodge, which has a restaurant and a gift shop that sells camping supplies and groceries. Electric hookups are available in RV sites but there are no sewage hookups. A dump station on-site is $1 per use. Pay showers, flush toilets and water are also available in the area. The sites here are very large, and in the summer, there are 14-day stay limits.
The campground is open early April through late October each year. Make advanced reservations at www.cedarpasslodge.com/campground or at at 433-5476 or 433-5460.
Sleepy Hollow Campground & Rv Park
Located within the city of Wall next to the world-famous Wall Drug, Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park lends easy access to the area’s top attractions. The campground also provides a plethora of comfortable overnight options. The park features a dedicated tenting area and nearly 60 pull-through sites for RVs. All overnight visitors to Sleepy Hollow share access to showers, laundry facilities, and the quiet surroundings.
In operation since 1931 and drawing millions of tourists to the area each year, the souvenir destination known as Wall Drug is a traditional roadside stop when traveling in this area. Other attractions near Sleepy Hollow Campground include the Wounded Knee Museum and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
The Pinnacles Entrance to Badlands National Park is accessible from Sleepy Hollow in less than a 10-mile drive.
Address: 118 W 4th Avenue, Wall, South Dakota
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How Many Days Should You Plan To Spend In Badlands National Park
You can spend anywhere from a half day to several days in the park, depending on if you want to hike or if you want to see more than one unit. If you simply want to drive the 22-mile paved portion and the 25-mile gravel portion of Badlands Loop Road, plan on three hours with stops. Otherwise, book an overnight stay in the cabins or campground, so you can witness both the sunset and the starry night sky.
If you only have one day to experience Badlands National Park, heres a solid plan:
- Take Interstate 90 from Rapid City and stop at the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center.
- Visit the Ben Reifel Visitor Center in the North Unit and watch the park movie. Check out the paleontology lab, if youre visiting during the summer.
- Drive to the parking area two miles northeast of the visitor center. You may be able to catch the ranger talk on the Door Trail. Regardless, dont miss hiking the Notch Trail.
- Backtrack to the visitor center and then head out on Badlands Loop Road, stopping and taking photos at the various viewpoints including Yellow Mounds and Pinnacles Outlook where you may meet some bighorn sheep.
- When the paved road ends, continue on the gravel road. Youll spot hundreds of prairie dogs at Roberts Prairie Dog Town. Then exit in the park in the northwestern corner. Or depending on your timing, you can double back to Pinnacles Outlook to photograph an unforgettable sunset.
Things To Do In Badlands National Park
The park offers something for everyone including hikers, amateur geologists, dinosaur lovers, and stargazers.
Visitor centersLocated in the southeastern corner of the North Unit, Ben Reifel Visitor Center is the main hub in the park. Here, youll find a 23-minute introductory movie, ranger talk schedules, a gift shop, informative displays, and a paleontology lab where you can see actual scientists working on fossils. The paleontologists are happy to answer questions and discuss their work. During the summer, the center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter, hours are shortened to between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the shoulder seasons, the center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are rock formations close to the visitor center where car-weary visitors can climb. Just remember, the rules of gravity are in effect in the Badlands. Be careful not to fall!
If youre traveling with a child , make sure to pick up a booklet for the Junior Ranger Badge program at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The park also offers a free GPS Adventure Activity Book. Using a GPS-enabled device, the guide will lead you to natural features, trails, and exhibits.
The Stronghold Unit only has a short gravel road. Check at the visitor center for road conditions before attempting to drive it.
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Getting To Badlands National Park
Most visitors will travel to the Badlands by taking Interstate 90, which runs just north of the national park. From here, youll have easy access to the Pinnacles Entrance from the town of Wall as well as the Northeast Entrance from State Highway 240.
For those coming from the south, Highway 44 brings visitors to the town of Interior and the main park headquarters. Highway 44 continues west from here to the town of Scenic, which provides access to the South Unit in Badlands.
Use the Google Map below to get directions from your specific location to Badlands National Park:
Challenges To Land Rights
The Badlands National Park also faces debate over the federal claims to the land once inhabited by the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe. Supporters of Oglala Sioux reparations argue against the U.S. government’s seizure and management over sacred Native American land. The Badlands National Park began taking steps to reserve part of the park’s southern unit for management by the tribe’s members, creating jobs and returning ownership to those re-located out during America’s Manifest Destiny, however this creation of the Tribal National Park has yet to come to pass.
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The Best Badlands National Park Camping And Hiking
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Expansive prairies, rugged rock formations, neverending views, and abundantwildlife. Welcome to Badlands National Park, encompassing more than 244,000 acres of desolate beauty in South Dakota.
The Badlands are home to one of the worlds richest fossil beds and most incredible geological features, not to mention bison, big-horned sheep, burrowing owls, and thousands of prairie dogs. Its also full of amazing hiking trails and one of the most stunning night skies around.
If youre planning a trip through South Dakota this year, be sure to bookmark this Badlands National Park camping and hiking guide so you can make the most of your visit.
As someone who melts when the temps soar past 85 degrees, Im not sure how I found myself in Badlands National Park during a heatwave in the middle of summer, except that summer really is the best time for road tripping.
My nieces and I managed to do lots of hiking in the early morning and late evening, found a fabulous, but crowded free campground with a resident bison, and spent the heat of the day learning about Badlands history in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.
What To Bring On Your Badlands National Park Camping Trip
Preparing for your Badlands National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear youll need to ensure a great trip.
- Coleman Camping Stove This camping classic is perfect for Sage Creek Campground where fires are prohibited.
- Pop-up canopy The sun in this part of South Dakota can get intense! You wont find much shade at either campground, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
- Portable water container Especially useful for Sage Creek, which does not have a water source, these portable water containers are a life saver.
- Cooler The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We cant recommend Yeti enough!
- Badlands National Park Map
- Even better than paper maps, we like to use the Gaia GPS app on our phone. You can download maps for every National Park at a fraction of the cost. Get 20% off your Gaia subscription here.
- Badlands Guidebook A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Badlands. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides.
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Legislative And Administrative History
On March 4, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed Public Law No. 1021, authorizing the Badlands National Monument in South Dakota. The legislation’s conditions for eventual proclamation included the acquisition of privately owned land within the proposed boundaries of the monument and the construction of a 30-mile highway through the park. The Badlands National Monument became the seventy-seventh monument within the National Park Service a decade after its original authorization, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the enacting proclamation on January 24. 1939. The monument was renamed Badlands National Park in 1978.
The Badlands National Monument was established in order to preserve the natural scenery and educational resources within its boundaries. The bill authorized specific scientific and educational institutions to excavate within the monument in the pursuit of educational, geological, and zoological observation. The bill includes a portion highlighting the potential for fossil excavation in the monument’s geological formations.
Badlands National Park Superintendents
Badlands National Park Campground Map
For those interested in camping during their visit to Badlands National Park, weve put together a complete guide below.
Weve also created the map below to give you a sense of where the parks two main campgrounds are located.
In addition, the NPS also provides a helpful map of the popular Cedar Pass Campground, as shown below.
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Badlands National Park Campgrounds
There are several options for those looking to camp inside Badlands National Park. The large and well equipped Cedar Pass Campground is perfect for those with an RV or who prefer more services, while more remote car camping is available at the Sage Creek Campground, and the entire National Park is open to backcountry camping for those with a sense of adventure!
The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the campgrounds are located in Badlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. Keep reading for detailed information on all your options.
Badlands Interior Motel And Campground
Found one mile outside the southern Interior Entrance of Badlands National Park, the Badlands Interior Motel and Campground offers a convenient place to stay right outside the entrance gates. The campground features tent sites, RV pull-through parking spots, camping cabins, and a 22-unit motel. Badlands Interior also features established teepees.
All guests at the Badlands Interior Motel and Campground have access to the restaurant, store, swimming pool, and full-service restroom facilities. While all the overnight options at the Badlands Interior Motel come with a great view, the tent sites are located on the outer edge of the campground, offering more expansive views of the jagged horizon in the distance.
The nearby small town of Interior offers basic amenities, like camping supplies and a couple of restaurants.
Address: 900 SD-377, Interior, South Dakota
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Everything You Need To Know About Spending The Night In Badlands National Park From Rules And Regulations To The Best Campgrounds
Badlands National Park may not see as many visitors as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, but trust us, that’s a good thing. The Badlands’ striking landscapes are noticeably less crowded, making it easier to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the park’s striped rock formations and dramatic canyons. Then, there’s the wildlife bison, bighorn sheep, and golden eagles, to name a few.
It’s a corner of South Dakota that draws people from around the world, who make the journey to drive on Badlands Loop Road, hike on the Notch Trail, or spend time examining the myriad fossils that have been uncovered in the park.
The truth is, a day here just isn’t enough, and since the park showcases an entirely different side at night one that includes clear skies and a full view of the Milky Way it only seems right to sleep under the stars. Luckily, there are plenty of options, from established campgrounds and RV hookups to rugged backcountry camping. To help you get started, here’s everything you need to know before setting up camp in Badlands National Park.
Backcountry Camping In Badlands National Park
Those looking for a true immersion in nature that’s far from other campers have plenty of options. Backcountry camping is permitted anywhere within Badlands National Park no permit needed as long as the campsite isn’t visible from any of the park’s roads or trails and is at least a half-mile away. So, basically, you’re free to set up camp almost anywhere within the park’s 244,000 acres.
If the sheer number of options feels overwhelming, keep in mind that most backcountry campers tend to head to Deer Haven, a two-and-a-half-mile trail that travels along the base of the Badlands and opens up to various camp spots, including a grove of junipers and the top of a butte. Another popular destination is the Sage Creek Wilderness Area off Sage Creek Rim Road. The area is inhabited by bison, so simply hop on one of the game trails and walk until you find a spot that’s a half-mile from the road and out of sight.
In the Badlands backcountry, you’ll need to bring a backpacking stove and at least a gallon of water for every day you plan to be out. In addition, you’ll have to pack out your trash and toilet paper.
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