Badlands National Park Hiking and Camping Adventure
The dramatic landscapes of the secluded South Dakota Badlands National Park serve as a backdrop of one of the most unearthly camping adventures you might ever experience. The prairie region's steep canyons and towering spires, its remoteness and geologic formations, all make this an extremely rewarding – and challenging – terrain to explore.
Formed over the course of 47 million years, the Badlands National Park of South Dakota is the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Enjoy gorgeous sunrise and sunsets across the vast treeless horizons, hike through moonlike landscapes to panoramic overlooks of the White River Valley, and experience the diverse wildlife up-close and personal.
Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water — without an animal and scarce an insect astir — without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands. ~Thaddeus Culbertson
Ben Reifel Visitor Center
Make sure that your visit to the Badlands National Park includes a stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The visitor center features numerous exhibits, including interactive ones, which focus on the ecology, historical culture, and paleontology of the Badlands. You may also want to stop by the Fossil Preparation Lab between 9am-4:30pm to watch the paleontologists at work. Don’t forget to pick up a Junior Ranger activity book.
Need to escape the mid-day sun and the oppressive heat? The new film, Land of Stone and Light, is shown in a large air-conditioned theater. During the summer months, special ranger programs such as guided hikes, talks, and evening programs are offered. Check website or visitor center for details.
Night Sky Program
If you're a stargazer, camping in the middle of nowhere has its distinct advantages – the lack of light pollution allows for spectacular viewing of planets, stars, and the Milky Way Galaxy. Make time for the evening ranger-led Night Sky Program with high-powered telescopes to assist your adventure into the heavens. These night programs at the Cedar Pass campground amphitheater are offered between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Cedar Pass Campground
Like the rest of the Badlands, Cedar Pass campground is set in a dramatic barren landscape which makes for some interesting challenges. Wind is the major issue, if you're not prepared for it. Practice setting up your tent for windy conditions (we tested our setup in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina). Be sure to utilize all of your tie downs or you might find your tent somewhere in the next county. Also, privacy is almost non-existent among the 96 tightly arranged campsites. If you have the choice when making reservations, choose an outer loop site overlooking the adjoining prairie.