6 Best Hikes in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Overview

Below you will find the 6 best hikes in Badlands National Park! Badlands is located in southwestern South Dakota. Here you will find sharply eroded rock pinnacles, buttes, and spires as well as the largest grass prairie left in the US. Temperatures here can vary greatly so be sure to come prepared with plenty of water, sturdy boots, and sunglasses or a hat to shade yourself. There aren’t many lengthy hikes here but hikers are allowed to explore the canyons beyond the designated trails. 

StateSouth Dakota
Nearest Metro AreaRapid City, SD
Area Size244,000 acres
EstablishedNovember 10, 1978
Hiking Trails17 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Badlands National Park

1. Castle Trail

This is the longest trail in the park and can be used to access some of the trails below to make an ‘ultra’ Badlands circuit hike. Most of the trail is through the prairie; on the way hikers can explore Saddle Pass, Medicine Root Trails as well. The trailhead is located next to the Fossil Exhibit Trail parking area or you can begin on the east side at the parking area for the Door and Window Trails.

  • 10 miles – Out and back
  • 400′ gain
  • Moderate
Badlands National Park – Castle Trail, Photo by Eugene Eric Kim
2. Notch Trail 

You’ll climb a log ladder and walk along a ledge to “the Notch” that offers dramatic views of the White River Valley. The trailhead is located towards the south end of the Door and Window parking area.

  • 1.5 miles – Out and back
  • 150′ gain
  • Moderate
Notch Trail, Photo by Chris Light
3. Saddle Pass

Short but steep ascension up the Badlands Wall to view the White River Valley. The trail can be accessed from a parking area off of Badlands Loop Road or from Castle Trail.

  • 0.25 miles – Out and back
  • 200′ gain
  • Strenuous
Badlands National Park – Saddle Pass Peak, Photo by Eugene Eric Kim
4. Door Trail

Named after a break in the Badlands Wall known as “the Door”, this trail gives hikers a good feel for the geography of the park. The trailhead is located in a parking area off of Badlands Loop Road next to Window Trail.

  • 0.75 miles – Out and back
  • No elevation gain
  • Easy
Badlands National Park – End of Door Trail at Dusk, Photo by Eugene Eric Kim
5. Medicine Root Loop

This loop explores the grassy prairie of Badlands National Park and can be added while you are coming back from hiking the Castle Trail. The trailhead is located at the junction of Castle Trail and Old Northeast Road.

  • 4.0 miles – Loop
  • 100′ gain
  • Easy
Saddle Pass Trail
Connecting Castle Trail and Medicine Root Loop, Photo by Wayne Hsieh
6. Window Trail 

This trail leads to an eroded ‘window’ in the Badlands Wall with a view of the intricately eroded canyon. The trailhead is located in a parking area off of Badlands Loop Road next to Door Trail.

  • 0.25 miles – Out and back
  • No elevation gain
  • Easy
Window Trail
Window Trail, Photo by Aaronth

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Featured Image: Badlands National Park, Photo by Tim Lumley

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