Results 1-10of 18 Reviews
September 24, 2013
From journal Family Vacation in the Black Hills
July 22, 2012
From journal More Than Just Badlands
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
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 Noel F.
July 9, 2007
From journal 4th of July in the Black Hills
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
October 5, 2006
The park is divided into three sections - the northern one being the most accessible - right off Rt 90 with a beautiful car driving loop going through it. Near the eastern entrance is the Visitor's Center - worth a stop to begin your visit. There's a well-done movie explaining the park and it's critters - and other exhibits to meander around. Naturally, there's also a gift shop and restrooms.
Like critter watching? For Bighorn Sheep, look along the road near the Pinnacles overlook/entrance early in the morning. They were regularly eating there then when we visited and were up close. Buffalo/bison are often seen down Sage Creek Road - anytime of the day, but can be in the distance. Prairie Dogs have many towns both along the road towards the western side and along Sage Creek Road.
So what's so special (besides the animals)? The erosion of the rocks... Rocks you say, just rocks? Well, no, not "just" rocks - incredible scenery of cliffs that go on and on beyond your view's end. The color is spectacular. The erosion unbelievable - and not equaled in sight anywhere we've seen in such massive amounts. Hiking here is a must - even for a short hike - just to touch the cliffs up close and personal (yes, it's allowed - just don't take any).
Note that the only food available in the park is at the Cedar Pass Lodge (near the Visitor Center, but not at it) - you need to head to Wall, Interior, or Cactus Flat otherwise (or bring a picnic). We ate in Wall Drug in Wall. It was good - though crowded. Wall (and Wall Drug) is the local tourist area - and the place to go if you like shopping, etc, plus a little local history.
Quite honestly, we've talked with people - well, we've also BEEN people, who expected a short drive through the park seeing some neat scenery (on our last trip) and were WOWED with what we actually saw. That time we didn't have time to really see this park, so this time we started here - and "wowed" my mom and nephew with the same sights. To many folks (us included) Badlands NP and Bryce NP (Utah) offer some of the most spectacular, unexpected scenery. See some of my other entries for specific hikes we did...
You probably wouldn't want to spend a week here, but a day or two is well worth it. Our whole family enjoyed it much more than Mt Rushmore... It's some of nature's scenery at her best.
North Little Rock, Arkansas
August 22, 2003
The Lakota Indians were the first people to thrive in this area - they called the Badlands "mako sica" or "land bad." When bison flourished in and around the Badlands in the mid 1700s, the Lakota used the steep cliffs as "bison jumps," where the animals were stampeded to their death when they ran off the cliffs.
Geological History: About 65 million years ago, the Black Hills began to form, draining a shallow inland sea that had covered the region for15 million years, creating a dome nearly 8,000 feet high. As the dome rose, erosion occurred. Streams became torrents, stripping rock from the hills and carrying the sediments east to the valley where the sea had been. The streams slowed and dropped the hills’ debris. Over millions of years, the valley was filled with sediments up to 1,500 feet thick. About 38 million years ago, the climate of the area changed drastically. Rivers and streams made mud flats and marshes, then filled with sediments to create forests and grasslands.
The erratic routes of the streams, rain, volcanic ash over the years contributed to the patchwork layering that gives the Badlands its distinctive banded appearance today. The layers are mostly mudstone and siltstone, very unstable materials, not really ‘real’ stone. Very little sediment has been added the past million years, so the whole place is falling apart as it is being carried away by the White, Bad and Cheyenne Rivers. It is one of the worlds most rapidly dissolving landscapes. The colorful banded landscape of buttes, canyons, towers and other forms are the result of the carving of the plain by renewed erosion.
You can get to Badlands National Park by exiting Interstate 90 at Highway 240 in southwest South Dakota.
From journal Badlands of South Dakota
by Jim Rosenberg
October 5, 2000
From journal Rapid City: Black Hills-Badlands Road Trip