Results 1-10of 18 Reviews
Fort Worth, Texas
August 11, 2000
From journal Midwestern Roadtrip - Rapid City, SD
July 22, 2012
From journal More Than Just Badlands
by Noel F.
July 9, 2007
From journal 4th of July in the Black Hills
February 25, 2002
A Tad of History
Early French trappers who came through this region of bizarre geological formations of fossilized soils from the Oligocene Epoch of some 35 million years ago named it les mauvaises terres á traverser or "bad lands". The Lakota Sioux refer to them as maka seka, which is roughly the same. The name is apt: the region, despite its singular beauty, is tough to live in. It's hot and dry in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter.
What they're like
The Badlands are at their most beautiful during and after one of the wham-bam-thankya-ma'am thunderstorms that blow up in just a couple hours in mid-summer. The sight of their strangely shaped pillars, buttes, and mesas silhouetted against a backdrop of great flashes of lightening accompanied by epic thunder-claps is something you won't soon forget. After the storm is over and the sun comes out, the pinks, mauves, and yellows of those ancient soils come alive, glowing, in the afternoon sun. Of course, if you're there during a storm and are driving, don't even think about going off the tarmac: those soils turn into something rather akin to a gigantic bar of soap - and just as slippery. I know. I've done it. And I've gotten thoroughly stuck in the process! Not fun...
Beyond their natural beauty, the Badlands are the world's greatest storehouse of Oligocene fossils, during which era the region was a sea floor, while dinosaurs and all manner of other later reptiles and mammals are buried in layers above. Many, if not most, of major dinosaur skeletons you see in museums came from this general region.
The Badland Loop leaves I-90 at the tiny town of Cactus Flats, leading down through the park and back up to connect once more with I-90 a few miles out of Wall, I'd recommend a detour down to Sheep's Mountain, or another run south of Kadoka into the eastern portion of the park that most people miss. Only the Loop will be crowded, even in high summer; the rest of the park is almost deserted. Have fun!
When to go
I'd recommend May or September before or after the hordes of summer have departed.
From journal West River South Dakota
by Jim Rosenberg
October 5, 2000
From journal Rapid City: Black Hills-Badlands Road Trip
September 24, 2013
From journal Family Vacation in the Black Hills
ashbourne, United Kingdom
December 3, 2011
From journal Meeting up in South Dakota
August 18, 2011
From journal Journey to the Old Way of Life in South Dakota
September 15, 2007
From journal South Dakota
East Berlin, Pennsylvania
October 6, 2006
To those who do this hike, you're rewarded with a nice meander through - and up - one of the many canyons in the Badlands. You get to see, touch, and marvel at the colors and texture of the cliffs and can almost literally see the erosion making them the gems that they are. At the end, you reach a notch (hence the trail name) approx. 500 ft or so up where you get a spectacular view of the White River Valley. There's no bench, etc, but we used some well placed rocks to sit down and eat our breakfast there one morning - it was peaceful and nice. Since we were there early, we didn't see more than a handful of other hikers, but I suspect later in the mornings this hike might be popular.
If you'd like to hike the Notch Trail, definitely wear hiking boots. The rock of the Badlands is hard - yet brittle in places - and the traction provided by boots would be a necessity in my opinion. Hiking sandals might be uncomfortable with bits and pieces of said rock ending up under your feet. After a rain, this hike is said to be hazardous due to slippery conditions - so judge accordingly. It wasn't an issue when we were there - though it would have been neat to see water in some of the washes... There was one area where the trail had been rerouted due to erosion, but it was well marked with signs. In all cases, beware near edges...
Other thoughts... like anywhere in the Badlands - or hiking in general - take water. It can get hot out here easily - esp in summer. Sunglasses are also an asset. We saw mule deer, ground squirrels and birds, but most of the beauty lies in the terrain. Enjoy it as you hike.
After being in the notch, head over to the Cliff Shelf trail and you can look up and see where you were...
From journal 2006 Trip - Part 1 - IA, Badlands + Rushmore