Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

  US National Parks

VISIT Badlands National Park:

Badlands National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota offers sights that look to be out of science fiction books. These deposited, then eroded rock formations offer flowing colors and landscapes you likely have not seen before. Its eerie terrain features twisted spires and pinnacles that transform as sunlight hits them at different times of the day. This park is home to bison herds, pronghorn and bighorn sheep, deer, fox and coyotes.

This park is usually visited alongside Wind Cave National Park, which is just a little over 50 miles away. However, some of the more popular areas nearby include Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower and Custer State Park.

Why is it called Badlands?

The Lakota people that occupied much of what is now South Dakota, dubbed this region around the national park “mako sica,” roughly translated to “bad lands”. Long ago they noticed that its rocky terrain, lack of water and extreme temperatures made it extremely difficult to traverse, and thus the name “bad lands” was born. French-Canadian fur trappers also called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.”

Today, badlands have a more geological meaning. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded in a dry climate. The national park’s typical scenery of sharp spires, gullies, and ridges is a premier example of badlands topography.

Places to Stay When Visiting Badlands

The north part of the park has the most trails, roads, and amenities. The southern section has a single road and no hiking trails.

Inside the park, the Cedar Pass Lodge is your only option to stay outside of a couple campsites we list below.

Wall, SD is the closest town outside the park at 8 miles away and has a few more options to stay at. Other nearby towns include:

  • Wall, SD (8 miles away)
  • Quinn, SD (13 miles)
  • Wasta, SD (21 miles)
  • Rockyford, SD is the nearest town to the south entrance at 24 miles away.

Park Details

Badlands National Park was established on January 25, 1939, and has a total area of 242,756 acres (379 square miles, or 983 square kilometers).

Address 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD, 57750
Phone605 433-5361
HoursOpen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Entrance Fee$30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days
Learn MoreOfficial Website

When to Visit: Weather vs. Peak Visitation

Badlands National Park is the 64th most visited park in the country.

We crunched 30 years of historical weather and/or park service data to find the best months to visit Badlands National Park. We looked for the optimal temperatures, the least amount of snow and rain, and stayed away from peak visitation months if we could help it. All this data then helped us paint a picture as to what the absolute best time to visit Badlands National Park is.

Our data shows the best months to visit Badlands National Park are September, October, April & August.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Park Visits14,89911,35028,18242,749109,764256,041288,004236,282138,47766,94123,4328,105
Precipitation141842617054342723341814
Avg Temp364050637485949381654837
Max Temp535972839210110610498857055
Avg Temp182128364757646352392719
Min Temp-317203143535135228-1
Temperature values in °F; Precipitation in Inches

Badlands National Park Road Trips

Many family vacations consist of stringing one or more national parks together during a week-long trip. Creating these types of trips is our specialty! Here are the road trips we've created where Badlands National Park is visited.

Trip NameTrip MilesTrip Days
Devils Tower, Wind Cave, Mt. Rushmore to Badlands4447

Other Nearby National Park Sites

From national monuments, to historic sites to seashores and more, here are the other parks closest to Badlands National Park.

NameDistance
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site31 mi
Mount Rushmore National Memorial49 mi
Wind Cave National Park51 mi
Jewel Cave National Monument66 mi
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument111 mi
Devils Tower National Monument124 mi
Niobrara National Scenic River125 mi
Scotts Bluff National Monument146 mi
Fort Laramie National Historic Site148 mi
Theodore Roosevelt National Park227 mi

Nearby Campsites & RV Parks

If you are looking to pitch a tent or park an RV at a campsite near Badlands National Park, here is a list of the closest campsites in the surrounding area. They all have slightly different amenitites, so its best to check them all out instead of just chosing the first on the list.

NameDetailsMiles Away
French CreekFairburn, SD more 27 miles
Cedar Pass - Badlands National ParkCottonwood, SD more 28 miles
Ellsworth AFB MilitaryRapid City, SD more 39 miles
Game Lodge - Custer State ParkCuster, SD more 44 miles
Grace Coolidge - Custer State ParkCuster, SD more 45 miles
Center Lake - Custer State ParkCuster, SD more 46 miles
Little Jon ParkRapid City, SD more 47 miles
Grizzly Creek PrimativeKeystone, SD more 47 miles
Grizzly BearKeystone, SD more 48 miles
Legion Lake - Custer State ParkCuster, SD more 48 miles

Nearest Ski Resorts

For those of you who are the diehard outdoors type, visiting a national park on a ski trip can be quite the adventure. Here are the ski resorts within 100 miles of Badlands National Park:

NameLocationSummitDifficulty ScoreDistance
Ski MysticHill City, SD6,850 ft32%61 mi
Terry PeakLead, SD7,100 ft39%77 mi

Nearest Airports

When visiting a National park, many people are faced with either a very long drive across country, or a much shorter flight. For those of you looking to fly into Badlands National Park, we've listed the closest airports in the area.

Large Airports

A large airport has scheduled major airline service with millions of passengers per year. This type of airport always accepts international flights. Here are the closest large airports to Badlands National Park.

NameCodeCityDistance
Denver International AirportDENDenver, CO291 mi
Minneapolis–Saint Paul International AirportMSPMinneapolis, MN465 mi
Winnipeg / James Armstrong Richardson International AirportYWGWinnipeg, MB492 mi
Medium Airports

A medium-sized airport has scheduled regional airline service. This type of airport may or may not accept international flights. Here are the closest medium-sized airports to Badlands National Park.

NameCodeCityDistance
Rapid City Regional AirportRAPRapid City, SD34 mi
Pierre Regional AirportPIRPierre, SD118 mi
Western Neb. Rgnl/William B. Heilig AirportBFFScottsbluff, NE141 mi
Gillette Campbell County AirportGCCGillette, WY156 mi
North Platte Regional Airport Lee Bird FieldLBFNorth Platte, NE203 mi
Casper-Natrona County International AirportCPRCasper, WY207 mi
Cheyenne Regional Jerry Olson FieldCYSCheyenne, WY214 mi

Credits: Campground data provided by USCampgrounds.info. Map shapes from CartographyVectors. Weather data from NOAA. Airport data from OurAirports.com. Images from Unsplash, Flickr and Parks&Trips. All data has also been updated and augmented by Parks&Trips.