Located in the west-central part of South Dakota, Badlands National Park is one of the few, select National Parks that can be enjoyed as much on foot, as it can in a car. About 80 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota on Interstate 90, Badlands National Park is a must see when visiting the Black Hills Region. Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres divided into two separate sections, making up four "units." The most popular unit is the Cedar Pass Area which is the northeastern part of the park located in Interior, South Dakota. The next area is the Badlands Wilderness Area Sage Creek Unit, which is a vast expanse of open country used primarily for primitive camping. The Stronghold Unit which is located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is located in the southwestern part of the park and is more difficult to access. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, or are willing to hike, you can visit Stronghold Table where the Sioux Indians did the Ghost Dance for the last time in 1890. Finally, the Palmer Creek Unit is separate from the rest of the park and has no improved road access. It is located due east of the Stronghold Unit, also located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on the eastern side of South Dakota State Highway 27.
Badlands National Park can be accessed through it's Eastern Entrance off of exit 131on Interstate 90, the Northern Entrance can be accessed off of exit 110 on Interstate 90, and the stronghold unit can be accessed off of BIA Highway 27. Badlands got it's name from fur trappers who came to this area in the early 1800's. They called the area badlands, because of the complete lack of drinkable water in the region. Made a National Park in 1978 (it was a National Monument from 1939 - 1977), this area was a hot bed of dispute between Native American Sioux Indians, and immigrant homesteaders who, against a signed treaty with the Native Americans, illegal started to settle this land in the mid-1800's.
Around 75 million years ago, this region was a shallow ocean area. Evidence of this can be found today in the steel colored layer of shale that lines all of the buttes in the park. This Pierre Shale as it is called is incredibly rich with fossils, and it was close to Interior, South Dakota where Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world, was discovered. Paleontologists scour the park today trying to unlock the hidden secrets of this world.
Coming from exit 131, off of Interstate 90, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center is located about five miles south of the Northeast Park Entrance in the Cedar Pass Area. Camping, the Cedar Pass Lodge, a restaurant, and ranger station can all be found here. The Cedar Pass Area is also where all eight miles of the established hiking trails, both improved and unimproved, are located.
Day Hiking Badlands National Park...