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75 mi SE of Rapid City, SD




242,756 acres


1,006,809 in 2022


Badlands National Park, situated in southwestern South Dakota, is renowned for its striking landscape of rugged rock formations, deep canyons, and expansive prairies. Established as a national monument in 1939 and later designated as a national park in 1978, Badlands spans over 244,000 acres of unique terrain shaped by millions of years of erosion and geological processes. The park's iconic features include colorful sedimentary layers, towering spires, and fossil-rich badlands, offering visitors a glimpse into the region's ancient history. Badlands is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and various bird species. Visitors can explore the park's scenic drives, hiking trails, and interpretive programs, immersing themselves in the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the American Midwest.


Badlands National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, adapted to the unique environment of the South Dakota prairie. The park's iconic species include bison, which roam freely across its grasslands, offering visitors an authentic glimpse into the American West's past. Bighorn sheep navigate the rugged terrain, while prairie dogs create bustling communities in the park's grasslands. Visitors may also encounter mule deer, coyotes, and black-footed ferrets, among other mammal species. Birdwatchers can enjoy spotting golden eagles, prairie falcons, and a variety of songbirds soaring above the expansive landscape. Additionally, the park's night skies offer opportunities for stargazing and the chance to observe nocturnal creatures such as bats and owls. With its rich biodiversity and varied habitats, Badlands National Park provides visitors with countless opportunities to connect with nature and witness the beauty of the American prairie ecosystem.

Sounds of the Park

Things to Do

Visitors to Badlands National Park can go hiking, camping, horseback riding, stargazing, and more. Note that certain outdoor activities may depend on the season.

When to Visit

Badlands National Park has a continental climate with cold, snowy winters and hot summers. Given the park's location in the Northern Plains, weather can be erratic and unpredictable year round. Despite this, temperatures are typically mild in the spring (April-May) and fall (September-October). It is recommended to visit during the middle of the week to avoid crowds.

Ties to Stephen Mather

Badlands National Monument was first authorized on March 4, 1929, less than two months after Stephen Mather resigned from the National Park Service. Despite this, it was not formally established as a national monument until 1939, and not established as a National Park until 1978.

stm plaque.jpg

Fun Fact

Badlands National Park hosts the largest undisturbed mixed-grass prairie in the United States.

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