Beautiful Views at Badlands National Park in South Dakota

from Off the Beaten Path | 318
Badlands National Park, South Dakota© 2009 iStock/Jody DingleChildren and adults alike are intrigued by the barrenness and desolate beauty of this rocky, moonlike landscape sculpted by erosion.

Interior, South Dakota

One can imagine the dismay with which pioneers eyed this 50-mile stretch of seeming moonscape that appears so abruptly on the grassy plain. The cliffs, gorges, soaring spires, knife-edged ridges, flat-topped mesas, and fossil-filled canyons—carved and etched by millions of years of rain, wind, and frost—stand as a classic example of the effects of erosion.

Most visitors to the Badlands simply drive the scenic 30-mile loop along Hwy. 240. But for those willing to venture off this well-worn path, there are many little-known spots to enjoy. The park encompasses nearly a quarter-million acres, and some 64,000 acres of the most spectacular landscape are a roadless wilderness area open only to hikers, backpackers, and horseback riders.

During the summer the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, at the eastern end of the park, schedules several ranger-guided nature walks, evening slide lectures, and stargazing programs. The White River Visitor Center is located in the south unit of the park, which includes part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Park open year-round; Ben Reifel Visitor Center open daily except major holidays; White River Visitor Center open June – mid-Sept. Admission charged.

www.nps.gov/badl

(605) 433-5361