Badlands National Park, SD

IF YOU GO

Badlands National Park, SD
Entrance Fee: $25 per car
Camping Fee: Camping fees for up to two people are $22 per night per campsite, or $37 per night for campsites with electrical hook-ups. Each additional person is $4 per night.
More info: (605) 433-5361

Badlands National Park (Adobe stock image)

By Nushin Huq

Between 2 Pines Magazine

Badlands National Park, located about an hour east of Rapid City, SD, is best known as a place where you can find fossils. While, there aren’t any dinosaur fossils here, people do find mammal fossils. It’s one of the few parks where you are allowed to go off of the trails. See wildlife, such as prairie dogs. At night attend a ranger talk at the amphitheater by the campsite.

WHAT TO SEE

Start your visit with a drive through Sage Creek Road. It’s a good place to see wildlife, especially bison and prairie dogs. Then head to the visitor center to pick up the junior ranger books for the kids and look at the exhibits. There’s a fossil lab there, and you can talk to the scientists working on examining fossils. There is also a short movie about the park.

There are a number of great trails to explore. Badlands has an open hike policy, which means you don’t have to stay on the official trails. Use caution and common sense, but kids will have fun climbing over rocks and looking at fossils. If you find a fossil, tell a park ranger. Don’t take it home!

Check the park bulletin to see if there is a ranger program at night. On many nights, rangers will have an astronomy program. Badlands is a great park to star gaze.

WHERE TO STAY

Cedar Pass Lodge is located next to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The lodge consists of a number of recently refurbished cabins. The Cedar Pass campground is next door.

WHERE TO EAT

The only restaurant in the park is the Cedar Park Lodge Restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant specializes in local cuisine, such as fry bread found in their Sioux Indian Tacos. Next to the restaurant, Cedar Pass Lodge gift shop also carries snacks and convenience foods.

BEST HIKES FOR KIDS

Saddle Pass, Door, Window and Notch trails are shorter than those in other national parks, but kids will definitely enjoy the rocky terrain and being able to climb over rocks. If you can, let your kids linger on the trail here and look for fossils.

BEST TIPS FOR KIDS

Badlands National Park offers a really cool ranger night sky program where the ranger gives a talk on the national park system and the night sky. In addition to being able to see the stars with the naked eye, the rangers also have a couple of telescopes set up for you to enjoy. If you live in the city, it’s always a treat for kids to be able to see the stars! It is also a great park to hunt for fossils! In fact, in 2010 a 7-year-old girl discovered a saber tooth cat fossil. Just remember: If you find a fossil, alert park officials and do not take any fossils from the park. Speaking of fossils, take time to visit the fossil prep lab at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.

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