Best of Badlands National Park


One of the places nearly impossible to describe with black and white words alone, the Badlands most closely resemble a desert scene out of Star Wars: starkly shaped rock formations raggedly pointed from the wind and crevices carved from running water.

With only two nights in this space-like stratosphere during our cross country road trip, we wanted to make the most of our time, exploring every secret twist and turn. 

After thousands of photos were snapped and many trails taken, thanks to the handy AllTrails app, the Badlands has definitely finessed its way to a high-ranking spot on my favorite national park list.

Even though we only spent a day and a half in the park, we felt like we had completely maxed-out the experience. If there’s a way I could recommend doing it, even in the business of the summer, this is what I would say:

Kelly, left, and Sammy, right, wandering through the space-like Notch terrain

Notch Trail

This is a 1.3 mile trail that takes you into the heart of the Badlands. You’ll be craning up to see their peaks, feeling like you are literally walking back in time through the crevices. This trail is spectacular, and, of course being high on many visitors’ lists, gets very busy. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds. Even in the middle of July, we practically had the place to ourselves with an early (6:30 am) morning start. You won’t be sorry. This is only a taste of what the Badlands has to offer. 

Saddle Pass

More of a short climb than a hike, this trail will take you to the top of a steep rock that provides breath-taking views of the valley below. With slightly more complicated slippery footwork and a much steeper incline, make sure you have good shoes on. Short and intense but worth every step!

Medicine Loop

4.5 miles long, this flat trail takes you on a gorgeous meadow hike around the outside of the big rock peaks. Strolling through wildflowers and tall grasses, escape the crowds and get a glance of the natural beauty outside of the rocks. We went on a slightly overcast day, getting some shade from the scorching sun. 


More of an exploration site than a trail, I would imagine that this is how Neil Armstrong felt when he first landed on the moon. We wandered through a labyrinth of divots, sharp turns, and admired the massive gorge at the end of the trail. It felt like the door to another world. Ha, get it?

Pat and I exploring our stunning lookout

Sunset Lookout

I wish I could tell you where this was, but we found it entirely by accident. I’m not sure how it could look any crazier than this. The sun illuminating the red rocks took me to another planet.

BONUS – Prairie Dogs

Okay, I’m definitely not usually one for tourist traps, but you can go check out some chunky spunky Prairie Dogs along the way out of the parks. It’s pretty much just a patch of grass with some holes in it, but the little nuggets are definitely cute. Although I don’t personally agree with enticing wild animals with food, the store does sell peanuts for you to buy and feed them. I didn’t feed them but snapped a few pictures of the cuties. 

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