Badlands National Park is one of the most amazing National Parks in the whole system. It's an understated but incredible national treasure, and it has its own unique history, culture, wildlife, and special features that absolutely make it worth a road trip. Here are just a few of the best-kept secrets around the Badlands...
The Badlands are a stunning, rugged landscape-- but they're not easy to photograph. The best time to take pictures of the hills and stone formations is in the soft morning light, or towards the end of the day. That way, the light is hitting the hills at an angle that better highlights them and their crevices and colors, as opposed to beating straight down on them and washing them out.
In 2010, a seven-year-old girl found an incredibly rare and well-preserved saber tooth tiger skull. She, thankfully, reported her find to the rangers, which helped in the discovery of even more fossils in the surrounding area. Think about it... you could be the next person to find an ancient, maybe even extinct, animal's remains! Even if you aren't lucky enough to make a big find while hiking the park, you can still see some awesome artifacts at the Fossil Prep Lab in the Ben Reifel Visitors Center.
Sure, it's fun to watch the little guys scamper about at Roberts Prairie Dog Town , but if you wanna get up close and personal with the little critters, head to The Ranch Store of The Badlands.
Here they'll sell you a bag of peanuts in the shell for 50 cents, which you can feed to the prairie dogs-- they'll run right up to you! It's seriously fun to watch them, since they're so goofy; and make sure to get a picture in front of the giant prairie dog statue outside the store before you leave!
The Badlands is located near Wounded Knee, where the 1890 massacre of Lakota Indians by the US Army took place. In fact, the last Ghost Dance took place in the Stronghold Unit, the park's Southern half. The Ghost Dances were religious ceremonies put on by Paiute prophet Wovoka, who was determined to keep the US Government from taking Lakota lands-- the last Ghost Dance took place just days before the bloody battle. The Stronghold Unit is co-managed by the NPS and the Oglala Lakota tribe, which is really cool as well. While in the area be sure to visit the Wounded Knee Massacre monument and pay your respects.
There are tons of campgrounds and motels around, but there are also a few offbeat accommodation options as well. For example, Allen Ranch offers primitive camping as well as a tipi B&B. The tipis can sleep up to four people, and they'll treat you to a tasty cowboy breakfast when you wake up!
If that sounds too cushy for you, then maybe you'd rather rough it in the Badlands 1880 Homestead Cabin. It comes with beds, an outhouse, a porch... and not much else. Located a mile away from any other sign of civilization, it's a chance to live (sort of) like a pioneer-- except you can bring some camping supplies to make life a little easier.
Cedar Pass Lodge offers a more modern overnight choice, with the lodge and brand-spanking new cabins, all decked out with the latest modern amenities (TVs, AC, cozy bedding and all).
Who said that there was nothing to do in South Dakota? There are tons of things to see and do, all within 100 miles of Badlands. While you're in the area, stop by famed tourist attractions like the quirky Wall Drug Store, and the iconic Mount Rushmore, check out lesser known gems like the unfinished but still epic Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial, the fascinatingly informative Wounded Knee Museum, or visit the recently declassified Minuteman Missile National Historic Site!