Destination :: Badlands National Park

  • Badlands National Park: The Yellow Mounds. Low, rounded, pastel-colored hills, a bright blue sky, and dried grass.

    Yellow Mounds. August 2005. Image 1/7

  • Badlands National Park: a boardwalk runs to and up the side of a section of the rugged Badlands Wall. White hill, blue sky, dried grass, juniper trees.

    Cliff Shelf Trail. August 2005. Image 2/7

  • Badlands National Park: Badlands Wall at sunset, lit by soft orange light.

    Badlands Wall. August 2005. Image 3/7

  • Badlands National Park: View along the rugged Badlands Wall in daylight, showing both white and red-tinged hills.

    Badlands Wall. August 2005. Image 4/7

  • Badlands: A ladder made of big, round, wooden rungs and rope runs up the side of a white rock formation.

    Ladder to the Top of Notch Trail. August 2005. Image 5/7

  • Badlands National Park: The silhouette of the Badlands Wall backdropped by a pink and purple sky is visible through bare tree branches.

    Badlands Wall at Sunrise. August 2005. Image 6/7

  • Badlands National Park: Two pronghorn lie beside loop rode, overlooking a hazy view of open land.

    Pronghorn along Loop Road. August 2005. Image 7/7

Badlands National Park encompasses nearly 380 square miles in South Dakota. It contains the largest undisturbed grass prairie in the United States and is one of the world’s richest mammal fossil beds.

The Oglala Lakota Tribe, who settled the area encompassed by the park, co-manage the South Unit of the park with the National Park Service.1

Brief History

30,000,000+ years ago
Prehistoric animals, especially a rhino-like creature, did their thing, leaving behind a rich fossil record.2
11,000 years ago
Native tribes begin using the area as hunting grounds.
Late 1800s
Colonists move into South Dakota; the U.S. government forces the native tribes onto reservations.
March 4, 1929
Badlands National Monument is authorized, but it will not be established for almost ten years.3
June 26, 1936
The park boundary changes.4
January 24, 1939
The 76th Congress establishes Badlands National Monument.5
U.S. Army Air Force possesses over 340,000 acres of land in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Badlands National Park to use for a gunnery range.
May 7, 1952
The park boundary changes.
March 22, 1957
The park boundary changes.
United States Air Force declares all but 2,500 acres of the gunnery range excess property and turns the majority of it over to the National Park Service.
August 8, 1968
The park boundary changes.
October 20, 1976
The Badlands Wilderness Area is designated.6
November 10, 1978
Badlands National Monument is redesignated a National Park.7


South Dakota
United States




Amazing scenery, with much more variety than I was expecting. I drove through the park and stuck to the short trails easily accessible from the road. Some trails involve steep climbs. The area I camped in was in a grass prairie and fairly open/exposed, but sites were spread out enough to provide some sense of privacy. Near the top of my list of places I want to return to and explore in more depth.

Visits: 2 Most recent: August 2005

Quick Statistics

Nearly 242,756 acres8
Wilderness Area
64,144 acres9
17.5 miles10
996,263 (2016)11


  1. Unless otherwise noted, information about the park and park history is from "Badlands National Park," Wikipedia.
  2. Badlands Visitor Guide, NPS.
  3. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  4. All park boundary changes from The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  5. "Frequently Asked Questions," NPS Archeology Program.
  6. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  7. The National Parks: Index 2012-2016, NPS.
  8. Listing of Acreage, NPS.
  9. Badlands Visitor Guide, NPS.
  10. "Hiking," NPS.
  11. Annual Visitation Report. NPS.


  • Annual Visitation Report by Years: 2006 to 2016. NPS Stats. Accessed December 12, 2017. Link.
  • "Badlands National Park." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. October 4, 2017. Accessed October 7, 2017. Link.
  • Badlands Visitor Guide. National Park Service. 2009. Accessed November 16, 2017. Link.
  • "Frequently Asked Questions." Antiquities Act 1906-2006. National Park Service Archeology Program. Accessed November 16, 2017. Link.
  • "Hiking." Badlands National Park. National Park Service. January 29, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017. Link.
  • Listing of Acreage (Summary). NPS Stats. December 31, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2017. Link.
  • The National Parks: Index 2012-2016. National Park Service. 2016. Accessed November 16, 2017. Link.