Notch Trail - Badlands National Park (SD)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by creekland on October 6, 2006

Notch Trail is a 1 1/2 mile (round trip) hike near the eastern entrance to the park. It's a very pretty trail giving folks a good insight into the Badlands. It does, however, have a bit of elevation change - and a huge - maybe 40' - cable and wood ladder that needs to be negotiated - meaning this hike is not for everyone. Remember, what goes up has to come down... We chose to do it before my mom joined us on the trip... and none of us "younger" folks had problems with it - but know yourself and your family. These aren't steps, it's an almost vertical, and not "solid/steady" ladder.

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...

Badlands National Park
25216 Ben Reifel Road
Badlands National Park, South Dakota, 57750
(605) 433-5361

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