Like several parks I’ve visited recently, I’ve been to Badlands National Park before, both with my parents decades ago and with my daughter in the late 90’s.
I didn’t remember the beautiful colors, thinking the park was just various shades of tan, but there are yellow, pale greens, purple/pinks, gray. So beautiful. I drove all the way down I-90 to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. I should have entered at the Pinnacles entrance, exit 110, and driven the Badlands Loop Road east. This land may have been “bad” for early white settlers, but Lakota and other Native Americans have been in this land for over 11.000 years hunting mammoth then bison.
After entering the park, I spent a little time at the visitor center with the exhibits. There is a lot of information on the geology of the park and you can see working paleontologist’s cleaning fossils, too.
I walked the Fossil Exhibit Trail. I stopped at all the overlooks, some on the drive towards Pinnacles, some on the way back. I walked the short trail at the Prairie Wind overlook. I had Boo with me that first day, so didn’t do any of the longer trails, as dogs are not allowed on trails here. I returned to the northeast entrance as I wanted to visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center on the way back to Rapid City. I spent two hours here, what a great museum!
I returned to the park later that week. I did enter at Pinnacles this time and then headed west, at the end of 240, toward the Roberts Prairie Dog Town. I walked through here enjoying the adorable prairie dogs barking at me and retreating into their burrows if I got too close. After 15 minutes of wandering through the prairie dogs, I returned to my car and headed back east.
I stopped at the Badlands Wilderness Overlook and the Hay Butte Overlook before getting back to the paved road. I saw multiple mountain goats on the way. One was right beside the road just munching away ignoring all cars and annoying people stopping to stare and take photos (me included). There were 5 perched on a pinnacle near the Badlands Wilderness Overlook. They were very close by; great to see them, also ignoring all the humans staring and taking photos.
I didn’t make many other stops until I got to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center again, then walked through to see if I had missed any exhibits. I did not, so continued out the west entrance planning on several short hikes.
I did the beautiful Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. Then I drove to the stop for the Window and Door Trails and did both of those. Beautiful. All of them. Such amazing diversity and colors in a seemingly boring landscape.
Boo and I continued out of the park, heading to Sioux Falls. Lovely visit, even if just a few short hours across two days. There are two other areas of the park that I didn’t visit, the Stronghold Unit and the Palmer Creek Unit, within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.