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Badlands National Park Trails

The Badlands National Park is a 244,000-acre expanse of mixed-grass prairie and starkly eroded rock formations in southwest South Dakota. The area, which includes a number of hiking trails, was designated a national park in 1978, and receives nearly 900,000 visitors annually. About 64,000 acres of the park is designated as protected wilderness land.

The park is known for its striking geology and rich fossil beds, which has led to discoveries about the climate, ecosystem and animal life during past geologic time periods. Badlands National Park is particularly rich in fossil from the Oligocene Epoch, a period of time about 33 million years ago, when land mammals dominated the region. Fossil remains unearthed in the national park include ancient camels, rhinoceroses, land turtles and birds. In the 19th century, scientists discovered 77 species from fossil records found in Badlands National Park.

Today, Badlands National Park is the reintroduction site for the most endangered land mammal in North America, the black-footed ferret.

The South unit of the park contains many sites that were sacred to American Indian tribes, including the Sioux Oglala. The park’s high point, Red Shirt Table, is located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and the Oglala help maintain the area.

Badlands National Park: Castle-Medicine Root Loop

Watch thriving bison herds while surveying million-year-old glacial architecture on this 4.2-mile lasso loop through the largest untouched mixed-grass prairie in North America.

Badlands National Park: Sage Creek Wilderness Area

This 22-mile backcountry route weaves through pinnacled formations, serpentine washes, and expansive grasslands in Badlands National Park’s Sage Creek Wilderness Area.

Badlands National Park: Pinnacles Overlook

Although short, this popular 0.2-mile trail to Pinnacles Overlook offers big views of Badlands National Park’s iconic rock formations.