The Great American Road Trip: Badlands National Park

At the beginning of summer, a vacation planned for August seems like it will never arrive. When planning an August vacation in November, it seems even further away! And then, in the blink of an eye, those much planned for and anticipated two weeks fly by and are gone. We’ve been home for almost two weeks and have been sucked back into real life too quickly. I’ve been staring at the pictures I took, wishing that we were still gone, in the wild West, hiking the trails.

On the other hand, it is nice to sleep in one’s own bed at night!

Badlands sign

Over the course of two weeks, our family of four visited 5 national parks and 2 national monuments. Our first national park was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It must have been very disheartening to stumble across the Badlands as a pioneer; to be traveling across the great, wide, green prairie, and then to all of a sudden see vast distances of rock valleys and chasms. Early pioneers, immigrants and farmers came out West hopeful of building a new life on the land and barely survived.

prairie meets badlands

We have it easy; now there are modern roads and we own a sturdy minivan to drive on them, along with a cooler full of food and water for picnics on the roadside.

I thought I knew what to expect in the Badlands; heat, rocks, trails, and heat. And yes, we did get all of those things. It was August in South Dakota, so it was about 90 degrees. And there were lots of rocks and trails to climb around on.

Badlands hiking 1

But what I didn’t expect was the amount of beauty in those rocks. The Yellow Mounds were my favorite, but I just loved all the colored lines in the rock; the jagged edges contrasting with the rounded mounds, and the way the flat prairie met all this ruggedness.

Yellow Mounds
Yellow Mounds

I also didn’t expect to see such a variety of wildlife. Bighorn Sheep, bison, and our favorites, prairie dogs!

Once you see a prairie dog town, they are easy to spot. First you see little mounds in the short grass, and then you hear the prairie dogs chirping to each other. The closer you look, the more prairie dogs you’ll see scampering around, running from hole to hole. They are noisy little things! And very curious, too! Some came up right the edge of the road, thinking they were going to get fed by us tourists. We disappointed them, however. As my junior rangers would tell me, no feeding wild animals!

Prairie dogs kissing
Prairie Dogs


Bighorn Sheep, ewes and lambs
Bighorn Sheep, ewes and lambs
Bighorn ram
Bighorn ram

We only spent one night there, and while we explored and saw a lot, we could have spent even more time in the Badlands. But we had other places to see on our Great American Road Trip….


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6 Replies to “The Great American Road Trip: Badlands National Park”

  1. Beautiful! I saw part of the Canadian Badlands and I don’t think I ever fell in love with an area as fast as that! It was just stunning! Albeit without any wildlife. Perhaps I should go to your Badlands to see some more!
    Mara recently posted…TriathlonMy Profile

  2. I always would think imagine traveling this in a wagon. Endless miles. But I love those beautiful views of the endless miles. Glad you were able to visit the Badlands. Will watch for more posts!
    Janice recently posted…safeMy Profile

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