Part 1 of 3: Badlands, South Dakota
As it often seems to be, our plans don’t always turn out as we expect. August 2017 we were excited to be going to Yosemite National Park, and sadly, the forest fires in the area kept us from the park. Our reservations were cancelled about a week before, so we had to come up with a new plan. Since we live in Iowa, we decided we would take a short road trip and do some hiking at the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota, located in the southwest corner of the state.
This was Steve’s first trip to the Black Hills. I have been there a few times so I had a good idea of where to stay and what would be some good things to see. I had not hiked there before, so I Googled relentlessly until I found some Black Hills hiking we would both enjoy.
Badlands National Park
We left before sunrise. It is about an 8 hour drive from our home. First stop was the Badlands. Although not in the Black Hills, it is also located in southwest South Dakota. It was on the way and definitely worth visiting.
The badlands are made of layered rock formations which were formed over millions of years through erosion and sediment deposits. Driving through the park is so cool. It’s like being on another planet. The landscape is sensational! Layered rock formations surround the terrain, some with spires and pinnacles giving the area a treacherous look. For more information on the park you can follow their link. https://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm
It was early afternoon and we had a late lunch at the Cedar Pass Restaurant, inside the park’s boundary. We dined on large servings of Sioux Indian Tacos served on Indian Fry Bread. Pretty yummy.
Hiking the Notch Trail, Badlands National Park
We decided the Notch Trail would be a fun trail for us to get out and move about. It is 1.5 mile out and back round trip trail. This trail travels through a short canyon first, then you climb a ladder to the bluff above. Next, you will follow a ledge around the bluff which finally takes you to the view of the landscape below.
Walking though the canyon is easy. Such beautiful landscape and rocks. The ladder didn’t seem bad until I looked down from the top!
Walking along the ledge seemed a bit treacherous to me as the rock path isn’t necessarily packed down as well like a dirt trail. Even though the rocks were dry, they seemed slick to walk on, and careful footing was needed. I expect this is very slick when wet. The view from the top was hazy but the landscape was still amazing.
Regardless, it was a beautiful short hike, just enough to get us rejuvenated for the rest of our drive.
Drive Through Badlands Park
We continued driving through the park while stopping to see the vistas and take pictures. The Pinnacles Overlook is a short walk from the parking lot. It is pretty cool and worth the stop. You can look down and see sharp rock pinnacles stretching before you nearly extending to the horizon.
The beautiful Yellow Mounds seemed to appear out of nowhere as we drove along. They were probably my favorite because of the dramatic yellow color with pink stripe was a stark contrast to the grey and off white formations.
We also saw a Prairie Dog Town. The prairie dogs were a lot of fun. Watching those little guys pop up out of their holes was entertaining.
We love the Badlands and would have enjoyed spending more time hiking there, but it was getting to be late afternoon and we had reservations at The State Game Lodge at Custer State Park in the Black Hills. We headed that way continuing on our Black Hills road trip and ready for more hiking.
Follow the links below for more of our Black Hills Hiking and Road Trip which includes more hiking, Mt. Rushmore, scenic drives, kayaking and wildlife viewing.