Usa on the road

Badlands National Park: a stunning day

The awesome landscape of Badlands National Park is somehow hard to describe.

Badlands derive their name from how this land was called by the Indians.
It’s easy to understand why they used this negative name: in these territories there was no chance to grow vegetables, trees or raise animals.
Today this area is not that “bad” anymore, mostly for the fact that it became a National Park and therefore is a popular tourist destination.

While planning the trip I read a lot of information and I have seen many pictures taken on the spot and I was more or less prepared to be impressed. Surely I never thought that a place so barren and beautiful at the same time, with a huge area of 244,000 acres, would have left me literally speechless.
The erosion of wind and rain, over the centuries, has created a eerie moonscape of deep gorges and jagged sawtooth ridges with rock layers painted in subtle hues of sand, rose, gold and green.


Erosion began about 65 million years ago and still continues today revealing long-buried fossils. Some of them are stored at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center [named after the first American Indian to serve in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1971] at Cedar Pass; others can be seen at the Saber Site and at Fossil Preparation Lab.

One thing that surprised me most was the lack of tourist accommodation.
The difficulty to find an hotel [usually very easy all over the U.S.] amazed me.
In the Badlands National Park, as in all other National Parks, the accomodation facilities mostly consist in lodge and camping.
The most known here in the Park are the Cedar Pass Lodge and Cedar Pass Campground which are located near the eastern entrance.


Entrance fees are charged at Badlands National Park. Car fee is 15$ for one week.
Ben Reifel Visitor Center is always open. Beware that during winter it has a shorter opening time.
During summer season, the Visitor Center also organizes guided tours for free.
For most of them reservations are not necessary, just follow the information on where to meet and time.
For more information I recommend you to visit the Park website.

Among the tours, we chose the Geology Walk beginning at 8:30 in the morning.
In August it is really hot and it is better to visit the Badlands in the early morning or in the evening.
Our guide suggested a walk in the moonlight: it seems that the peace is praiseworthy and the moonlight emphasizes the layers of the rocks.
The duration of our walk was 45 minutes, but then people were free to walk on their own.
As our guide told us: “The National Park is belonging to everybody, please  feel at home.”

The trails are very well marked and accessible to people with disabilities as there are elevated walkways which lead to many of the interesting sights.

If you are planning to visit the Badlands, and you decide to participate in a guided tour or just take a walk by your own, follow these few but essential advices:

  • Wear comfortable and closed-toe shoes: the ground can be steep so it is better not to get unpleasant distortion
  • Protect yourself from the sun: especially if you visit the Park during summer, the hat is essential, and the same goes for sunscreen, there is very little shade so be careful to avoid sunburns
  • Bring water with you: inside the Park there are no vending machines or kiosks. Drinking water is available only at the Visitor Center or at the Cedar Pass Lodge / Campground.
  • Beware: do not stray too far from the trails, not because it is forbidden, but because there is a risk of running into rattlesnakes. You will find several signs in the Park: believe them, we have seen one!


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