Home to one of the world’s richest fossil beds, Badlands National Park was established as a national monument in the late 1930s before being re-designated as a national park in 1978. The park’s 244,000 acres offer visitors plenty of ways to share the outdoors with bison, bighorn sheep and the numerous other animals that roam the mixed-prairie rangeland.
Visitors can tour by car; how long it takes depends on how often you stop. Driving Sage Creek Rim Road comes with a view that often includes bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs, but outdoor activities like hiking and bird-watching are also popular.
Cedar Pass Lodge houses the only lodging and restaurant in the park and also manages Cedar Pass Campground, one of the two campgrounds in Badlands National Park. Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Cedar Pass has cold running water, flush toilets and covered picnic tables. Sage Creek is a primitive campground located near the Badlands Wilderness Area with wandering bison, pit toilets and no water. Camping is free at Sage Creek on a first-come, first-serve basis and rarely fills.
During the summer, be sure to take advantage of ranger-led activities like geology and prairie walks and fossil talks. Badlands National Park is located 75 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota, and the closest airport is the Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), about an hour away.