While we were in the Black Hills during our Midwest road trip, we spent one day in Badlands National Park! The views were incredible and we saw a TON of wildlife, which was awesome. If you’re planning a trip to the Badlands, here are all the amazing sights you can see!
Planning a day in Badlands National Park
We only have one day in Badlands National Park, but I think that was actually sufficient (especially since it was cold and snowy while we were there). If you want to do some hiking, I would plan to spend a few days there, but if you just want to drive through the park and see the main sights and wildlife, one day is probably enough.
If you go during the busier season, you might want to budget some more time for the crowds. We were there at the end of October and it was cold and snowy, and I was surprised how many people were there, especially considering how empty Theodore Roosevelt National Park was a few days earlier. We didn’t have any issues finding parking or anything, but I would recommend going first thing in the morning or during the off season if you want to make sure the park isn’t too crowded.
You can also see some wildlife before you enter the park! We got to see a herd of bighorn sheep right outside the park.
I wasn’t sure how active the animals would be in the snow, but we actually saw a ton! There were a lot of bison near the road and didn’t seem to mind being right next to the cars driving by.
I was a little worried that the snow would affect the views, but I think we actually had the perfect amount of snow! It didn’t completely cover up the hills and ridges, and it was the perfect dusting to add some contrast with all the brown. Since it was so overcast and grey, I don’t think the views would have been nearly as pretty without the snow because all the brown can look pretty flat. So don’t be discouraged if it’s going to snow when you’re planning on visiting Badlands National Park!
One of the downsides of the snow (and I’m sure it’s the same in the rain) is how incredibly muddy the trails can get! And it’s not just hard to walk in, the mud was absolutely caking to our boots and it felt like each foot was 10 pounds heavier. So if you’re planning on doing some hiking, I would recommend doing it during nicer weather.
Seeing wildlife at Badlands National Park
The wildlife at Theodore Roosevelt National Park was pretty spread out throughout the park, but at Badlands National Park, they all seemed to be in one area. We drove on the Sage Creek Rim Road, which I definitely recommend if you want to make sure you see some wildlife! And I think we saw only one or two more cars on the road, so it was easy to take our time.
We got to see bison and prairie dogs right along the road, so we didn’t even have to get out of the car to get some good photos of them. The prairie dogs are not the easiest to photograph because they scurry around so quickly and hide in their holes when a car drives up. So if you want to get some photos of prairie dogs, you need to be patient!
Visiting Wall Drug Store
On the whole drive from Rapid City to Badlands National Park, we saw tons of signs advertising Wall Drug Store. I’m from North Carolina and if you’ve ever driven through the southern half on I-95, you’ve probably seen all the billboards for South of the Border, and the Wall Drug Store billboards were just like that!
Wall Drug Store is a famous touristy spot, and it’s right outside Badlands National Park so it’s pretty easy to get to. It has lots of restaurants and shops in an old-fashioned style strip mall. It felt pretty touristy so we didn’t stay for long, but I did get some nice Christmas ornaments in one of the stores. So if you have some extra time, it’s worth stopping by to say that you went, but I don’t think you necessarily need to spend a lot of time there.
So you can cover a lot of ground in one day in Badlands National Park! If you’re in the Black Hills area, the park is definitely worth a visit to see some incredible views and wildlife.