The Best National Park Campsites: Deer Haven

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
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Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Deer Haven

Bison roam where the people don’t in Badlands. Photo by: Ben Herndon/ Tandemstock.com

Badlands is home to the largest mixed grass prairie in the U.S., making it an open-air zoo for classic North American game like bighorn sheep and bison. The trailless Sage Creek Loop leads from one rangeland vista to the next, but wait until Deer Haven to set up your tent. Hemmed in by striated badland bluffs, Deer Haven sits high above the plains on a 2,950-foot high uplift that’s dominated by a juniper forest. The animals come for the grass, the trees, and the water, allowing for opportunities to observe interactions between bison herds, coyotes, bighorn and pronghorn sheep, and foxes. Start a two-day, 20-plus-mile lasso loop from the Conata Picnic Area, heading southwest then north around a badland formation to reach Deer Haven (mile 3). Continue northwest into Sage Creek Basin, eventually hooking back south toward Tyree Basin. Note: This trek requires good routefinding to pick a path among the long, serpentine washes. Pack in all water (1 gallon/person per day). Trailhead Conata Picnic Area Season Late summer and early fall for mild temperatures and dry weather Permit None