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Are you visiting Badlands National Park, but only have one day to explore? Check out our favorite spots in the park!
This place looks like Mars.
Actually, I guess it looks like planet Earth.
Planet earth is kind of funky-looking sometimes.
Especially in Badlands National Park.
The husband and I stopped at the Badlands on one of our cross-country camping trips, and I was completely overwhelmed by its strangeness.
We were surrounded by large, wrinkled grey boulders, desert flowers that emerged from dry, rocky soil, and DANGER signs everywhere.
If you are headed through South Dakota on a road trip, make sure to stop at Badlands and check it out!
And then make sure to visit the nearby (or, nearby in South Dakota miles) Mount Rushmore and the roadside attraction store Wall Drug.
Or, head north and visit a North Dakota National Park!
Badlands National Park appears both unfriendly and enticing– and before I could wrap my mind around what I was looking at– we were off on a hike.
Love traveling to the National Parks? Check out my guides for Two Days in Yellowstone, Hiking Arches National Park, Hiking the Grand Canyon, Hiking in White Sands National Monument, and Backpacking in Yosemite!
Day Hikes in Badlands National Park
I’d love to spend more time at this bad-bad (get it?) national park, but on this trip, we only had one day, and we wanted to make it count.
Since we were short on time– we opted for the trail that promised the best views– the Notch Trail.
The Notch Trail in the Badlands
The Badlands National Park trail guide says, and I quote…
“Do not attempt this trail if you have a fear of heights.”
Well– I AM scared of heights, but I’m also stubborn. We pressed along anyway, and after the hike, I decided that the park service was probably correct.
But I’m still glad that we chose the Notch Trail.
I’d even hike it again.
It definitely helped that there was a man hiking in front of us carrying a baby in a backpack.
Every time I got nervous, I figured– if he can do it while carrying a baby– I can do it too!
We climbed up the wooden ladder, along the rocky canyon, all the way to the “notch” overlook.
Planning your next trip? Check out my favorite camping and hiking gear.
When we made it to the overlook at the end of the trail, we admired the scenic White River Valley from above.
The views of the green prairie fields are stunning– and such a contrast to the grey rocks we’d been hiking on!
And then– we turned around, walked back the way we came, and (much to my dismay)– back down the somewhat scary ladder.
Next, we walked the extra-easy Window Trail.
It was a nice way to stretch our legs after the harder hike.
Finally, we ate a quick lunch, and drove the Badlands loop to check out some of the scenic overlooks.
As we drove away, I was still murmuring, “That place is SO STRANGE!”
Have you been to Badlands National Park? What should I check out on my next visit?
What’s Nearby? Check out Mt. Rushmore (about an hour and a half from the Badlands), and then get a bite to eat at one of my favorite restaurants: Kathmandu Bistro in Rapid City, SD.
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