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Badlands National Park

Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires surrounded by the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the national park system.

Fossilized skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-tooth cats and giant rhinoceros like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. Living creatures abound as well. Buffalo, mule deer, pronghorn, coyotes and prairie dogs have the run of the park and can often be seen by visitors.

Known locally to the Lakota Sioux as "mako sica" the area was first called "badlands" by early French trappers due to the difficulty of travel and the lack of water. In this semi-arid land of extremes, park visitors can experience rich and varied native plant and animal communities along with spectacular geologic scenery, fossils and human history of the area.

Badlands National Park contains the world's richest Oligocene epoch fossil beds, dating 23 to 35 million years old. Scientists can study the evolution of mammal species such as the horse, sheep, rhinoceros and pig in the Badlands formations.


  • The Badlands Wilderness Area covers 64,000 acres in the northern portion of the park. The most spectacular parkland is within the Sage Creek area in the northern section of the park.
  • The 133,000-acre southern area of the park is located within Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and managed in cooperation with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
  • Established as Badlands National Monument in 1939, the area was re-designated a "National Park" in 1978.
  • The park reintroduced bison and bighorn sheep in the 1960s and more recently the black-footed ferret. In 2003, thirty swift fox were released in the northern area of Badlands National Park.
  • Badlands National Park contains rich Oligocene epoch fossil beds, dating 23 to 35 million years ago. The rock layers hold the fossilized remains of early mammals such as three-toed horses, housecat sized deer, rhinoceros, saber-toothed cats, camels, and giant pigs.
  • "Badlands" is geologic term which is used to refer to similarly eroded landscapes around the world.


  • The entire park is open to hiking. Six marked trails provide leisurely hikes ranging from a 1/4-mile (.4 km) loop past fossil displays to a 5 1/4 -mile (8.5 km) one-way path across the prairie. Park rangers conduct interpretive programs daily throughout the summer and offer special presentations like night walks across the prairie or early morning nature walks.
  • See paleontology in action at the "Pig Dig" as park staff and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology students work during the summer. Visitors to the Conata Picnic Area can watch paleontologists removing 33 million year-old fossils that were trapped in an ancient watering hole.
  • Enjoy spectacular scenery, opportunities for wildlife viewing, wayside exhibits, and trails along Badlands Loop Road.
  • Take a backcountry hike in the Badlands Wilderness to explore the prairie and rock formations.
  • Visit the Roberts Prairie Dog Town, the largest easily-accessed prairie dog town in the park. It's just a 10-mile round-trip drive on a scenic unpaved road
  • The Badlands Wilderness Area covers 64,000 acres and is the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America.
  • The Stronghold area is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances. Drive to the top of Sheep Mountain to find one of the Badlands' most outstanding vistas. Avoid the Badlands Bombing Range included in the Stronghold District.


  • The colorful western town of Wall, South Dakota is located 55 miles east of Rapid City on Interstate 90. The Badlands National Park is just eight miles south of Wall. The Visitor's Center for the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands is located on Wall's Main Street - two blocks south of the famous Wall Drug, which is known across the world for its free ice water.
  • At Mount Rushmore the majestic 60-foot faces of four U.S. presidents gaze out over South Dakota's Black Hills. Recognized worldwide, they stand as a symbol of American democracy. This national treasure tells the story of the United State's rich history, rugged determination and lasting achievement. The Grandview Terrace provides spectacular views. For a closer view, visitors can walk the half-mile Presidential Trail, which loops along the base of the mountain.
  • Just 17 miles (27.4 km) from Mount Rushmore, the image of another great leader, Crazy Horse, is being carved from Thunderhead Mountain. Crazy Horse is the largest sculptural undertaking ever. When completed, it will tower 563 feet (171.6 m) high, 641 feet (1195 m) long. Visitors can watch history in the making as drilling and blasting continue on the rest of the sculpture.
  • One hour north of Mount Rushmore National Memorial is Historic Deadwood tucked in a pine-covered mountain gulch not far from where Kevin Costner filmed "Dances With Wolves." Deadwood is a designated National Historic Landmark. Old-fashioned brick streets, period lighting and Old Time Trolleys provide an exciting chance to step back in time.
  • The Black Hills region is filled with many other natural and manmade attractions. The 1.2-million-acre Black Hills National Forest covers an area almost as big as Delaware, and is a recreational wonderland. There are endless opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, camping and taking scenic back country drives.
  • Custer is located within a short drive of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument.

National Park Service Photos
Scenery along Badlands Loop Road
Scenery along Badlands Loop Road
One of many Badlands scenic views

Badlands Park Information:
Interior, SD 57750
National Park Web Site
Visitor Info (605) 433-5361

State Tourism Information:
South Dakota Tourism
(888) 520-3444

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Park Web site
(605) 574-2523

Black Hills, Badlands & Lakes Association
(605) 355-3600

Road and Highway Alerts
Dial 511 within South Dakota
(866) 697-3511
Traveler Information

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