Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is on my top five national parks list, for sure. The landscape, set in the middle-of-nowhere South Dakota, is different from any other I have ever seen or heard about. It contains mountains inlaid with red and yellow stripes, fossils, big horn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, antelope, and a hundred other cool things.
When my brother, Sam, and I first arrived at the park, we drove straight through to the south exit and into the small town of Interior, South Dakota. And when I say small, I mean tiny. The sign reads, “Welcome to Interior – Pop. 67”. Seriously. Only sixty-seven people live in the whole town, and about ten of those people live at Badlands Interior Campground, where we parked our RV for $27 a night. Included in our stay was electricity, water, and decent internet.
We stayed at the campground for four days, and went into Badlands National Park every day. Our first day there we saw six big horn sheep, and a couple of them ran right in front of our car. Dead prairie dogs littered the road in the flattest areas, and a rattlesnake warned us of its presence as it slithered in front of our feet. The views were epic and made it easy for a photographer to capture the beauty.
On the second day, we hiked the Medicine Root trail. The beginning was tough, rising about 400 feet in 10 minutes, but the rest was flat and easy. We saw another rattlesnake, but not much else in the way of wildlife. However, I got some great video, which you can find at the end of this article.
This park is huge and it took us nearly three hours to drive through it on our last day. We went the long way through the park toward Mount Rushmore to make sure we saw the whole place. The road weaves up and down mountains, in and out of valleys, and across vast, open plains. In short, the whole spectacle is stupendous. Absolutely stunning.
The entrance fee for someone not eligible for discounts (i.e. active military or senior citizen) is $20 and the pass is good for seven days. However, if you enjoy travel and plan on checking out a few national parks in the next year, I highly recommend gettng the National Park Annual Pass. You can purchase the pass at any national park for $80 and it lasts the whole year.
I would highly recommend visiting the Badlands. If you are going in the summer, make sure to reserve a campground or hotel in advance, as they book up quick. All the campgrounds in the park were full when we arrived. If you have an RV or a tent, I would suggest staying at Badlands Interior Campground.