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5 Badlands National Park Boondocking Stops

Last updated on May 7th, 2022 at 11:48 pm

Bighorn Ram skull laying on the prairie at Badlands National Park in South Dakota

In this post you will find our favorite 5 Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations. Much of the badlands area is designed for tent camping but small RV’s fit in as well.

Introduction: Why Visit the Badlands National Park

Boondocking is camping without water, sewer, or electricity. Unlike typical campgrounds that are similar to a small community, these areas off seclusion. They provide simple spots to set up a tent or park an RV but nothing more.

This park is over 244000 acres of geological wonders, fossil beds. Various animals live in the park, including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets.

One of the best reasons to seek Badlands Park Boondocking Locations is that they are near various idyllic locations like underground caves and hot springs. Just remember, when you visit, make sure you don’t leave trash at the campsite. After all, visitors from all over the world enjoy Badlands Park Boondocking Locations.
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History of the Badlands National Park

The park in southwestern South Dakota; inhabited for over 11,000 years. South Dakota’s Badlands are more than 244,000 acres of cliffs, pinnacles, and spires intermixed with the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States, are steeped in myths, gold mining, and ghost towns.

Other Posts About Boondocking and Hiking In and Near South Dakota

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16 Best Craters Of the Moon Boondocking Locations
14 Free Yellowstone National Park Boondocking
12 Great Grand Teton National Park Free Campsites

 

Top 5 Boondocking Spots in Badlands National Park

5 Badlands National Park Boondocking Stops

1. Badlands National Park Boondocking Spots – Bombing Range Road

Address
Bombing Range Road
Scenic, South Dakota
GPS: 43.712661, -102.520852
Elevation: 2805′

Management – Public – Forest Service

Free Dispersed camping in the Nebraska National Forest’s Wall Ranger District. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served.

2. Badlands National Park Boondocking Spots -Badlands Overlook – Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

Address
Wall, South Dakota
GPS: 43.890031, -102.226789
Elevation: 3047′

Management – Public – National Park Service

You may stay two weeks (14 days) at Badlands Overlook – Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.

There is boon docking that overlooks the Badlands just south of Wall on Hwy 240. It is on Buffalo Gap National Grasslands just before the fee booth into the Badlands. On your left, you will see gently rolling hills and a couple of tall cell towers in a field. There are a couple of entrances into the pasture – if a gate is shut, just be sure to re-shut. Beautiful spot!!!

3. Badlands National Park Boondocking Spots – French Creek Campground

Address
E French Creek Rd. Fairburn, SD
Fairburn, South Dakota
GPS: 43.6622, -103.0227
Elevation: 2898′

Management – Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt. There are 6-15 campsites at this location.

Campground has 8-10 tent sites in a fenced area. Vault toilet and garbage cans are in this area. There is parking in front of the tent area for cars/trucks and across the road for RV’s or horse trailers.

Very busy spot for rock hounds with agate beds within walking distance. The FS website states that it is a fee area but I was there a week and there was no instructions to pay.

4. Badlands National Park Boondocking Spots –  Sage Creek Campground

Address
Sage Creek Road
Wall, South Dakota
GPS: 43.894085, -102.414063
Elevation: 2549′

Management – Public – National Park Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 13 miles from a paved road. Sage Creek Campground is open Year Round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 18′. You may stay 14 days at Sage Creek Campground.

This “primitive camping” area in Badlands National Park caters to tent  campers, but it can accommodate smaller RVs. The road makes big loop with parking all around the inside, and tent sites and picnic tables in the middle. Bison wander the area grazing. There is an area designated for horse use. An 18′ foot limit has been placed on RVs.

5. Badlands National Park Boondocking Spots – Badlands National Park South

Address
Porcupine, South Dakota
GPS: 43.563956, -102.888019
Elevation: 3196′

Management – Public – National Park Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 45 feet. Southwest edge of the Badlands National Park, in a small area where the Park touches BIA-41. There is a small 100′ by 100′ area of mowed grass that over looks the Badlands.

Top 10 Trails to Hike at the Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #1. Notch Trail

1. Notch Trail Badlands National Park Hiking Trail

I was really looking forward to hiking this trek (June). Unfortunately, there were many people who were not equipped to trek, wearing flip flops or dresses, or who were not in good enough shape to handle the climbing and ladder sections. Others were not allowing others to use the ladder, so several people, including myself, simply climbed up the rock wall to avoid it. People were slipping and falling down the stairwell. Embarrassing! There is a notice stating that this trail should only be attempted by those who have good footwear and experience. It would have been a great path if it hadn’t been for the inconsiderate tourists.

Length: 1.5 mi
Elevation gain: 127 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Cave, River, Views, Wildlife, Rocky, Scramble, No shade, Fee, No dogs

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #2. The Door Trail

2. The Door Trail

While visiting Badlands National Park, this is a must-do hike. The initial section of this trail is on a well-kept, wheelchair-accessible walkway. The track then departs from the walkway and enters the badlands. It’s indicated by a numbered yellow sign post, but you’re free to go wherever you like. The end of the path area is marked with a sign. At the conclusion of the trail, there are breathtaking panoramic vistas. After you leave the walkway, the rest of the trail is mainly flat. However, it contains several steps and can lead you to bluffs.

Length: 0.9 mi
Elevation gain: 22 ft
Route type: Out & back

Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Hiking, Walking, Partially paved, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Fee,

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #3. Castle Trail and Medicine Root Trail Loop

3. Castle Trail and Medicine Root Trail Loop

It’s a fantastic way to see the Badlands! I began at the eastern trailhead (across the roadway from the Notch, Door, and other trailhead parking) and walked west before returning. I had virtually the entire route to myself, which was a wonderful change of pace from other portions of the park. A few kilometers into my journey, I got really lucky with some cloud cover. Bring plenty of water for yourself, as others have suggested. I skipped Medicine Root in favor of a more intriguing out-and-back route, Castle. I got up close and personal with a huge horn ram and a herd of deer. I once heard a rattlesnake tremble at me and approached with caution. So, if you’re in a place with a lot of tall grass, be extra cautious. The only criticism is that some of the markers’ red paint has faded and can blend into the environment. Overall, I enjoyed it!

Length: 11.0 mi
Elevation gain: 314 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Over grown, Rocky, Fee, No dogs

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #4. Saddle Pass Trail

4. Saddle Pass Trail

The track is a little slick in places due to loose gravel, but you may do as I did and hunch down to keep nearer to the trail on the way to the bottom. I’m 70 years old and strongly advise others to get out and hike the trails. It was a great way to start the day (my husband and I were out on the path by 8:00 a.m.) and it connected to the Medicine Root Trail.

Length: 0.7 mi
Elevation gain: 216 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Hiking, Walking, Fee, No dogs

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #5. The Window Trail

5. The Window Trail_cr

The entrance is located in one of the badlands’ major highway pull offs, with ample of space and a vault restroom. The trail is wheelchair accessible, with a walkway leading to a viewing point with two seats at the end. The views are stunning, and there is enough room at the overlook for you to sit and relax for a bit without obstructing other people’s views. Remember to bring drink and sunscreen because the badlands heat up rapidly and there is no shade.

Length: 0.3 mi
Elevation gain: 13 ft
Route type: Out & back

Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Paved, Views, Wildflowers,
Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #6. Medicine Root Loop Trail

6. Medicine Root Loop Trail Badlands National Park Hiking Trail

This trail was joined with Saddle Pass, but we preferred Saddle Pass to this hike. Our favorite parts were the start, when we saw three big horn sheep, and the conclusion, when the trail traverses a section of the Castle Rock trail. Aside from that, it was quite hot, and most of the wildflowers had dried up by this time of year.

It would be a lot prettier trail in the spring, in my opinion. I awarded it four stars since it’s well-marked and maintained, you can view the distant rock formations, and encountering wildlife on a trail is always exciting!

Length: 4.5 mi
Elevation gain: 337 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Views, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #7. Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

Badlands Park

The trail was easy to follow and well-marked. It was a pleasant loop, however there were several sets of steps to negotiate. The trail was dry, but owing to dust build-up, the stuff they used on it was quite slick. The trail has a walkway for about half of it and mild gravel for the other half. There are many benches at the views along the way.

Length: 0.5 mi
Elevation gain: 65 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Badlands Natioal Park Hiking Trail #8. Fossil Exhibit Trail

8. Fossil Exhibit Trail

Beautiful informative trail with a very well boardwalk. Begin and conclude under the shade of a shaded pavilion. Along this trail, there is a lot of pretty good informational signs. You can also go outside the walkway area to look for fossils. They do provide advice on how to register one and what to do if you find one. Remember not to disturb or remove any fossils or artifacts from their natural habitats or the park. This trail is accessible by wheelchair and is suitable for children. This trail has a large parking space as well. A restroom is available at this trailhead.

Length: 0.4 mi
Elevation gain: 9 ft
Route type: Out & back

Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Paved, Views, Wildflowers, No shade, Fee, No dogs

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #9. Sheep Mountain Table Road

9. Sheep Mountain Table Road

A fantastic location for exploring the Badlands. The first several miles are mostly made up of smaller, less steep structures that are fairly easy to navigate. There is a lot of walking after reaching the point where standard vehicles can no longer drive, through fields that abruptly drop off into spectacular cliffs. Although most of them may be explored to some extent, there are certain sections that are far too steep to walk on. That’s fantastic! However, I ended up hiking more miles than I had planned, and my legs became quite fatigued. My legs began to feel a little fatigued.

Length: 14.6 mi
Elevation gain: 593 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, OHV/Off-road driving, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No shade, Fee

Badlands National Park Hiking Trail #10. Sage Creek Loop

10. Sage Creek Loop

This is a wonderful trail. We completed it in one day, starting at 9 a.m. and finishing at 6:30 p.m., maintaining a good speed and taking two 5- to 10-minute stops. There isn’t much of a difference in height – that isn’t the problem. The topography is what made this trail tough: we hiked it in October, which was a little wet, which drenched our boots a couple of times. The other issue is mental: we were out on an overcast (but not wet) day, the wind was howling, it was a little chilly, and there was no one else around; all we had to do was be cool and keep going.

Length: 22.8 mi
Elevation gain: 807 ft
Route type: Loop

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Nature trips, Views, Wildlife, No shade, Fee, No dogs

Alternate Boondocking Sites to Search

Although you’ll find many sites to choose, these are some of the best Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations.

Black Hills National Forest

There are plenty of places to camp. However, they do have a few regulations; 100 miles from the water, half a mile from any marked campsite, and 300 feet from the road.

Buffalo Gap National Grassland

This location is close to the town of Wall and features the Badlands overlook, a grassy area with a stunning panoramic view. Of all the Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations, this is the most picturesque.

Little White River Recreation Area

It is the only area in the La Creek Wildlife Refuge that offers spots for camping. All of the sites are along the river, approximately 11 miles from the town of Martin, a great area to pitch a tent if you love fishing. Bright-colored clothing is recommended because it’s a favorite spot during hunting season.

Camping in these Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations is free, although there is a $30 entrance fee for the park. It is recommended, you check with the forest service during busy seasons to make sure spots are still available.

How to Get To the Badlands National Park

Many Badlands National Park Boondocking locations are scattered on the perimeter of the park. The park is approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Rapid City and 500 miles (800 kilometers) west of Minneapolis.

The park has two major roads; I-90 goes through the park’s North Unit before heading back up to I-90. Sage Creek Rim Road, also Highway 590, is a dirt or gravel road that follows the Badlands Wilderness on the park’s western side. The roads meet inside the park’s Pinnacles Entrance.

Things to Do in Badlands Park

Although you’ll find many sites to choose, these are some of the best Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations.

When looking for Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations, it’s good to consider the sites around you. For example,

Drive The Loop

This scenic route along Highway 240 will take you through some of the park’s most stunning locations, giving you to get a true sense of the place all without leaving your car.

Roberts Prairie Dog Town

This stop is just inside the main gate. You can feed Prairie Dogs, especially fun if you have kids. Who knows, you may see bison or an antelope.

Take In the Sunrise, Sunsets and the Moon At Night

Since you’re in the middle of nowhere, relaxing at one of Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations, the enchantment of a sunrise or stargazing might add to your relaxation. Wildlife is something you’re sure to see while one of Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations. Buffalo and Prairie dogs abound, but you might catch a glimpse of a black-footed ferret. You can either take a scenic drive or take a hike on one of the park’s numerous trails.

How Much Time Do You Need For Your Visit

Two days will give you enough time to see everything in the park. Since you’ve found one of the idyllic Badlands  Park Boondocking Locations, you may want to stay longer and enjoy the majesty of the location.

Accommodations and Dining Near the Badlands Park

If you’ve run out of propane at one of your Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations, there are a few great restaurants.

Wall Drug Cafe

The most extensive collection of private art resides here. Additionally, it is an excellent spot for coffee, donuts, and 5 cent coffees.

Cedar Pass Lodge

The historic restaurant is in the heart of The Badland and offers a fantastic view during your meal.

Several hotels are nearby if the weather turns bad at one of the Badlands National Park boondocking spots.

Best Time to Visit the Badlands National Park

When searching for Badlands National Park, each location may have different seasons when busier or closed. The park recommends early September as the best month for camping in one of its many Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations. Since the weather fluctuates so much, you may have a great experience any time of the year.

What to Pack For Your Visit To the Badlands National Park

Before selecting one of the scenic Badlands National Park Boondocking locations, make sure you have a camp stove since open fires are prohibited. Portable water is another must, although some Badlands National Park Boondocking Locations have limited access. Additionally, you may want to consider a generator since none of the sites have power.

Standard camping gear, sunscreen, and bug spray are probably already in you your backpack. One of the downsides of being at one of Badlands Park  is Rattlesnakes; just in case, pack a snake bite kit. The Badlands is notorious for being a place of extremes, so it’s good to pack clothing for all types of weather, including rain gear; don’t forget comfortable shoes. Get ready; you’re going on an adventure to one of Badlands Boondocking locations. Enjoy your trip.

You might also like some of the articles from our website about boondocking and travel.

 


 

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