General Hiking Information
Badlands National Park is a great family park. Foot trails lead to many park features. You can see much from your car, but to grasp the aura of time and silence and experience the scale so special here, spend some time hiking and enjoying the park.
In planning your hike, consider past, present, and forcasted weather. Trails can be slick and impassable, to dry and dusty or even dry on top and muddy and slick underneath. The entire park is open to hikers. All of the developed trails start from the parking areas within 5 miles of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center at Cedar Pass.
|Castle||5.0 mi / 8.0 km||Moderately easy. Castle Trail stretches from the Fossil Exhibit Trail and the Door / Window parking area. Primarily level, this path parallels some precipitous Badlands formations. The Medicine Root Trail makes a loop within the Castle Trail from any connecting trailhead. Not heavily used, the Castle Trail offers a chance for solitude and wildlife viewing.|
|Cliff Shelf Nature||0.5 mi / 0.8 km||Moderately strenuous 30 minute walk. Winds through a wooded prairie oasis surrounded by the parched Badlands. A trail guide is available for purchase at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or at the trailhead. Walkers will wander in and out of small tree shaded areas and take advantage of boardwalks and a flight of stairs in place to protected fragile resources. Located 1/2 mile north of the Visitor Center, the trail does climb vary approximately 200 feet in elevation. Views of the White River Valley are incomparable. The parking lot is small and cannot accommodate long vehicles towing trailers.|
|Door||0.75 mi / 1.2 km||Moderately strenuous walk. Two miles (3 km) east of Cedar Pass Visitor Center on the Loop road. This trail focuses on the park's geologic history. Starting at the northern end of the large Door and Window parking area two miles northeast of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Door Trail penetrates into wildly eroded badlands through a break called "The Door" in the Badlands Wall. The first 100 yards are paved and accessible to an athletic wheelchair user; however, the path will soon become more rugged. Good walking shoes are required. A trail guide is available for purchase along the trail or at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. It is recommended that you stay on the trail in the Door area. Those venturing into the formations occasionally lose their bearings and become lost.|
|Fossil Exhibit||0.25 mi / 0.4 km||Easy trail. Wheelchair accessible. If you are into dinosaurs, this is the place! A trail guide is available for purchase at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or at the trailhead. Examples of some now extinct creatures that once called the Badlands home are protected under clear domes. Located five miles northwest of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the trail is a very easy walk. During summer months, park naturalists give presentations about the rich fossil history of the park.|
|Notch||1.5 mi / 2.5 km||This trail that is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. Meandering through a canyon, this trail presents the hiker with the opportunity to climb a steep ladder, then travel along a ledge to "The Notch" above the Cliff Shelf area. One of the best views of the White River Valley and the Pine Ridge Reservation rewards those who do complete the trail. For the adventurous, the Notch Trail can be treacherous during and just after heavy rains. The trail begins at the north end of the Door and Window parking area and requires hikers to wear sturdy hiking boots. A hat and sunglasses are also recommended.|
|Saddle Pass||0.3 mi / 0.5 km||Strenuous. Very short but very steep, the Saddle Pass Trail is impassable after rains. It connects the middle of the Castle Trail and the Medicine Root Loop to the Badlands Loop Road. The trailhead and parking area are located two miles west of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.|
|Window||0.25 mi / 0.4 km||Accessible to athletic wheelchair users. Offering a view of an intricately eroded canyon, this trail leads you to a natural "window" in the Badlands Wall. This trail begins at the center of the Door and Window parking area.|
Always carry water. Two quarts per person per two hour hike is recommended. A hat and sunglasses are strongly recommended, as well as rain gear since weather conditions can change rapidly. Keep your distance from all wildlife encountered during your hike. Any wildlife can be unpredictable. Keep a distance of at least 100 yards. Remember that all park resources - fossils, plants, animals, artifacts and rocks - are to remain as you find them. Each person is entitled to the same sense of discovery you experience when traveling the park trails.
Wear appropriate footwear when hiking or walking, even around camp. Sandles or similar footwear provide little protection from cactus or snakes.
If you find any artifacts or large or unusual fossils, please stop by the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and ask to complete a report. Be prepared to accurately describe the location and positioning of the find. Do not move or remove any resources. Thousands of fossils are scattered throughout the park. Your reports will be investigated as the park paleontology staff is available to see if another significant fossil bed has been discovered.
Removal, defacing or destroying any plant, animal, mineral, fossil or cultural artifact takes away from what is special about Badlands National Park. Leave it for others to see and enjoy and for generations to come. It is a federal offense to remove, deface or destroy any animal, cultural artifact, fossil, mineral or plant in any of our national parks.
Wildlife can be dangerous! If an animal reacts to your presence, then you are too close. Bison can weigh over 2000 pounds and can run 30MPH, twice as fast as you can. Don't be fooled by "cuteness" or apparently "tame" animals. Deer, prairie dogs, snakes and insects can, and do, cause serious injury.
Badlands National Park is home for the Prairie rattlesnake, the only poisonous snake in the park. Rattlesnakes, like all snakes, cannot control their body temperatures internally. They must seek places where temperatures are at tolerable levels, generally between 65 degrees F and 85 degrees F. In summer, they often take refuge from the sun by hiding in prairie dog holes or under rocks and shrubs. Prairie rattlesnakes are not aggressive and usually try to escape when they encounter a human or other animal bigger than they are.
Although very few visitors to the Badlands ever see a snake, rattlesnakes are common enough that care should be exercised when hiking. Be especially careful when hiking through grass or brush and wear appropriate footwear.
Very few snake bites have been documentated in the park, but prairie rattlers should not be approached, handled, or otherwise harassed. Like all wildlife, they are protected in the park and should be observed from a respectful distance.
Climbing is permitted in Badlands National Park. Climbing buttes and rock formations is allowed but can be dangerous due to loose, crumbly rock. Be careful!
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