East Berlin, Pennsylvania
October 6, 2006
Window is a short, handicap accessible, trail providing everyone a chance to get into the Badlands - at least a little bit - to see them outside your vehicle. At the very least, do this trail - though it will undoubtedly be crowded.
Door is one of my favorite trails in this park. (Notch is the other.) The Park Service calls this a moderately strenuous walk, but we don't. We consider it a barely intermediate hike... however, maybe that's because we hike a good bit more than the "average" person? The first bit of Door Trail is a boardwalk - accessible to all - and like Window - leading just behind the parking area to see the "interior." Once the boardwalk ends, you are free to keep hiking with painted trail marks here and there to guide you. One need not stay on a single-width trail though - explore (within reason, of course - there IS a trail) - and find a "path" that works for you. In your exploration, don't get lost... supposedly that happens once in a while.
In truth, there are some ups and downs - comparable to natural "steps", and maybe some are "put off" by the ruggedness of the trail (instead of a typical "line" one follows), but my mom handled it just fine - and her knees aren't what they were in her younger days. She did have a hand or two helping once in a while. She said it was worth it to see the terrain.
In any event, you can go as far - or as little - as you feel comfortable with. And in reward, you get to see the rugged beauty to go with the rugged trail. Look down in the gullies - look up at the pinnacles - look out at the vastness of it all - and marvel that it all exists without a touch of man's engineering.
Hiking boots or shoes are recommended, hiking sandals might be ok too - if you don't mind the possibility of getting bits of rock under your feet once in a while. Tennis shoes or regular sandals are not recommended for traction reasons. Water is highly recommended, of course, as are sunglasses. Expect crowds - and heat (if you're there in summer). The crowds do lessen the farther you go. Most folks do just a touch of this trail.
From journal 2006 Trip - Part 1 - IA, Badlands + Rushmore