One of the world’s richest fossil beds, the unique geological formations of the Badlands have intrigued visitors across the globe for centuries. Once roamed by rhino, horse, and saber-toothed tigers, the area today is a mix of wildlife and prairie grasses, including the black-footed ferret, the most endangered mammal in North America.
Characterized by dry terrain, rich soil, and a sand-art like layering of sedimentary colors, the Badlands are a geographical wonder, ripe for pictures and exploration. With trails ranging from .25 miles to 10 miles round-trip, you could spend as little or as long as you want in the South Dakota wilderness. One of the fastest eroding landscapes on Earth, if you wait too long to see it, it just may be gone.
Here are 3 ways to make the most of your visit to the Badlands.
Camp Under a Sea of Stars
Open 24/7 with the exception of national holidays, one of the best ways to get one on one with the natural elements of the Badlands is after the rest of the world goes to bed. Telescopes are available at the Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater Friday through Mondays during the summer months and rangers are around to help identify constellations, stars and planets. One of the most popular attractions in the Park, the July Astronomy festival brings together novice and expert stargazers to wonder at the night sky.
Visit the Fossil Lab
Part of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, this working paleontological laboratory gives visitors the chance to watch scientists at work and learn more about the discoveries being made in the region. For a more in-depth fossil experience, the .25-mile fossil exhibit trail takes you past replicas of extinct creatures that once roamed the area.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Perfect for families, the park has created a GPS Adventure Activity Book to navigate you to points of interest. Uncover fossils, flowers, rocks, and artifacts, but be sure to leave them for other explorers because removing anything or creating your own geocaches here is actually illegal.