Table of Contents
What to Know Before You Go
Is the Badlands worth seeing?
Contrary to its name, the Badlands are beautiful! The area was originally named mako sica or bad lands by the Lakota people because of its rocky terrain, extreme temperatures, and lack of water. Today, it’s a great place to recreate, take in the landscape, and see wildlife.
What is the Badlands best known for?
Seventy-five million years ago, Badlands National Park looked very different. It was a shallow sea instead of the rock formations you see today. The sea eventually dried up, leaving behind one of the world’s richest fossil beds. It is also home to many species today, including bison and prairie dogs.
Badlands was featured in a bunch of movies from the 90s like Armageddon, Starship Troopers, Dances with Wolves, and more recently, Nomadland. Have you seen all of these? If you love visiting filming locations, it’s another reason to visit.
What is the best time of year to visit the Badlands?
Early Fall (September) is the best time to visit Badlands National Park since the temperatures are cool and mild, and summer crowds have dissipated.
Can you drive through the Badlands at night?
The Badlands Loop Road is open to vehicles 24 hours a day. Just drive carefully, and watch out for wildlife on the road. We got stuck in a mini cow traffic jam.
Do you need reservations for the Badlands?
You can visit Badlands National Park without reservations. Book ASAP if you plan on staying nearby since accommodations can book up, especially during the high season.
Badlands National Park Entrance Fee. How much does it cost to drive through the badlands? Can you drive through the badlands without paying?
Badlands National Park Fees are as follows (all are good for seven days):
- $30 Private Vehicle (for a car and its occupants)
- $15 Individual (hikers or bikers)
- $25 Motorcycle
- $55 Badlands National Park Annual Fee
- $80 National Park Annual Pass (we highly recommend this to save money if you’re exploring multiple national parks within one year).
To drive through the National Park, you will need to pay the park entrance fees unless you have a National Park Annual Pass.
Hours of Operation
Badlands National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the winter or in extreme weather conditions, roads may be closed.
Which entrance to Badlands is best?
The most popular drive at Badlands National Park is the Badlands Loop Road starting in the town of Wall. It will take you through viewpoints, trailheads, and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.
How much time do you need in Badlands National Park?
Park rangers recommend two full days to experience the park.
Is Badlands National Park busy?
Overall, it’s one of the least visited national parks in the US and is much less crowded than parks like Zion, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. The busiest time at Badlands is in the summer, particularly July and August.
What are the current conditions at Badlands National Park?
Check out their official site for the park’s current conditions.
Geography / Overview Map (North & South Unit) – How far do the badlands stretch?
The Badlands stretch for a hundred miles through the plains of South Dakota, and Badlands National Park has two units.
- The North Unit has two main roads and is the most popular part of the park.
- The South Unit doesn’t have any roads that go through it, but you can drive up Sheep Mountain Table and do a scenic drive around the South Unit.