A trip to South Dakota is not complete without visiting the awe-inspiring landscape of Badlands National Park.
Ancient animals like alligators, saber-tooth cats, early horses, and rhinos called the Badlands home millions of years ago.
When Lakota Native Americans discovered fossilized seashells and turtle shells, they correctly theorized that the area had once been under water. Before that, it was completely submerged under a huge ocean.
Today, you won’t find any alligators in the park, but you may catch a glimpse of wildlife like bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets. Black-footed ferrets are one of the most endangered animals in North America. They were once thought to be extinct, until a family of them were discovered in Wyoming in 1981. In 1994, they were reintroduced into the Badlands area.
When hiking in the Badlands, remember to bring water, wear appropriate footwear, and stay a respectful distance from wildlife. A good rule of thumb- if wildlife is reacting to your presence, you are too close.
These are the 3 best hiking trails in Badlands National Park.
1. Notch Trail (1.5 miles)
The Notch Trail is short but can be difficult due to the steep log ladder that hikers must climb. It goes through a canyon and ends with a beautiful view over the Badlands and the prairie.
2. Cliff Shelf Trail (0.5 miles)
The Cliff Shelf Trail follows a boardwalk through the landscape. This trail has lots of stairs and climbs 200 feet in elevation. There is occasionally a small pond that attracts wildlife.
3. Fossil Exhibit Trail (0.25 miles)
This easy trail goes along a boardwalk with views of fossil replicas and exhibits. For an insight into the park’s ancient wildlife, this is a fantastic trail.
Looking for a challenge? Try the Castle Trail, a 10-mile trail that passes through the Fossil Exhibit Trail.