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Good For Kids
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The views along the scenic drive are spectacular at certain points.
Badlands National Park
Closest available address
25216 Ben Reifel Road, SD 57750
Park is open 24 hours. Visitor center hours vary seasonally, summer = 7-7.
Best time to visit
Badlands National Park is a 244,000 acre expanse of unforgiving eroded landscapes, unspoiled grasslands and distant horizons. Seasons range from blistering hot summers to frigidly cold winters. The Badlands are still home to iconic species of the American West such as bison and prairie dogs. The park is best known for a variety of cragged, weathered spires and gullies which gives the area its famous name.
The Badlands have been home to Plains Indians for thousands of years. Lakota Sioux Indians who still live in the area were some of the last Indians to be forced onto reservations in the late 1800s. Park lands were first set aside as a national monument in 1939 in order to preserve the stark terrain, which at around 500,000 years old is actually young in a geological sense. The Badlands Monument was doubled in size and became a national park in 1978.
The park has two primary units, north and south. The north unit includes a year round visitor center, the only park lodge, an auto drive and hiking trails. The south unit is more isolated and is mostly undeveloped. With a half day you can complete the auto drive in the north unit and still have time to take some short walks. The Window and Notch are shorter trails which offer views of the Badlands. Window is easier, and Notch is more challenging. The Pinnacles Overlook is one of the better overlooks on the auto drive. The park is rich in fossils and attending a ranger presentation or visiting a dig is worthwhile. Bring your sunglasses for a summer visit as the sun can get intensely bright here. Star gazing is impressive at night. While it is not quite a must see, Badlands will be of interest to those who enjoy the outdoors, hiking, wildlife and fossils.
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