We’ve arrived at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota!! First impressions: IT’S AMAZING! When the rolling hills and vast open spaces gave way to the towering sandy, red banded buttes and spires of the Badlands we were amazed. It’s an alien landscape unlike anything else.
The Lakota tribe named the land mako sica, which translates into “bad lands”. It’s hard to believe it all used to be an ocean floor! The sea along the Great Plains spanned from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. When continental plates shifted and pushed land up into mountains, the sea retreated and drained away, leaving one of the oldest fossil beds in the nation. The Badlands have been home to the Arikara tribe, the Sioux/Lakota, and later in the mid-1800’s by settlers from the east.
We took the main road through the park to our RV campground. We passed by the most beautiful outlooks and vistas, giving us a great preview of the park. We set up camp and made dinner before heading out to watch the sunset over the prairie. The next morning we fueled up with a nice breakfast before heading out to explore the park. We started with a drive on the Badlands Loop Road, which is a great way to tour the park. There are lots of overlooks and places to picnic along the road, as well as parking lots for trailheads. Our first stop was the Prairie Dog Town, which is a vast prairie FULL of prairie dogs. When we arrived, the turn off was taken over by bison! They were huge and they were close. Haha. We had a great time watching them and were in awe of their size. Prairie dogs, on the other hand, are about the size of a small cat… maybe a Chihuahua. They make mounds that are the entrance to their underground dens. They are very playful and live in communities. It was like watching a sitcom. They make barking noises at each other and stand up on their hind legs.
Our next stop was the Medicine/Saddle Pass Loop. It was about a 3 hour hike through spires, up buttes, and across prairies. It was SO COOL!! The start of the trail is a straight climb up the spires. It was strenuous but once we got to the top the view opened up into prairie. We saw wildflowers, big horn sheep, and so many birds. What struck us most on our hike was the silence. It was so quiet. We really enjoyed it. On our way back, we stopped over at a couple of overlooks to appreciate the different views throughout the park. We made a hardy dinner after a long hike and enjoyed the sunset again. Badlands was awesome!