Badlands National Park

Our final park on our national park road trip was Badlands National Park. This is one park when I read about it ahead of time, I heard mixed reviews, with some people saying it’s only worth a quick drive through and others highly recommending it. Our family really enjoyed the park. What we enjoyed about this park is the chance to find fossils, the night sky ranger program and the cabins inside the national park. We started our visit with a drive through Sage Creek Road. It’s a good place to see wildlife, especially bison and prairie dogs. While, there aren’t any dinosaur fossils, you can and people do find mammal fossils here all the time. Unfortunately, we didn’t and the kids were a little bummed out about that. If had more time, perhaps we could hunt for fossils. For kids, that alone makes this park really exciting. When we got into the park, we stopped at a ranger talk. She told us why the park was so famous for mammal fossils and no dinosaur fossils. The kids spent some time looking for fossils, but soon it was lunch time so we headed near the park visitor center and cabins. We were staying at the Cedar Pass Lodge which is located next to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The lodge really consists of a number of cabins. These cabins were recently refurbished and were the nicest cabins we stayed in during our trip. My husband wished we had decided to stay here two nights instead of just one. When we first got there, our cabin wasn’t quite ready so we decided to have lunch at the restaurant. The Cedar Pass Lodge has a restaurant and gift shop with basic groceries. We then went over to the visitor center to pick up our junior ranger books and look at the exhibits. There’s a fossil lab there as well and you can talk to the scientists working on examining fossils. There is also a short movie about the park. After the visitor center, we checked into our cabin, washed up and headed out to do a few hikes. We hiked Saddle Pass, Door, Window and Notch trails. The hikes are shorter than those in other parks, but the kids loved climbing over rocks.  I admit, I had to rush the kids along a bit and in retrospect, having a little more time would have allowed us to linger a bit and let the kids look for fossils.  The kids definitely enjoyed the rocky terrain and being able to climb over rocks. After we were done with the hikes, we went back to the visitor center so the kids could get their junior ranger badge but the visitor center was already closed, so we went to grab dinner. Make sure you check the restraint hours, because it closes a little early. After dinner, we went to the ranger night sky program. We got there as the sun was setting and we were treated to a beautiful sunset. The ranger gave a talk on the national park system and one it was dark enough, started the night sky program. It was awesome! Living in the city, it’s always a treat to be able to get away to where its dark enough to see the stars.  In addition to being able to see the stars with the naked eye, the rangers had a couple of telescopes set up for us to enjoy.  I would encourage anyone with the opportunity to take advantage of a night sky program. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful road trip. The following morning, the kids got their junior ranger badges, we packed up and headed out of the park.

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