Exploring the Most Underrated Place to Visit in South Dakota, the Stunning Badlands National Park

We almost did not travel to Badlands National Park because it just looks like a bunch of moon surface hills and mountains. Hopefully these tips will help you commit to a quick 40 minute smooth drive from Mount Rushmore’s Rapid City.

Here are three travel tips to help you make the most of your visit to Badlands National Park.

1. Plan ahead.

2. Use the ranger-led programs and website.

3. Use a self-guided audio tour.

I am talking jaw-dropping views and vistas that we almost missed. If you are visiting Rapid City, South Dakota for Mount Rushmore, this park is a must-see!

1. Plan Ahead

You day in the Badlands will only take a few hours like many of the things to do near Mount Rushmore.

My plan: Make a quirky stop at Wall Drug for a clean potty break after coffee in Rapid City. FYI you can still buy 5 cent coffee and get free ice water (it’s a Wall Drug thing). Spend about 15 minutes roaming the shops inside this “store” and its parts.

It’s about 1.5 miles from the Badlands National Park entrance.

My mom remembered to pack her National Park Pass and tennis shoes because there are stops at almost every mile. As far as you can see are these odd moon-like hills and rock plus wildlife!


2. Take advantage of ranger-led programs and their map of the park

Badlands National Park offers a variety of ranger-led programs, including hikes, talks, and night sky viewing sessions. These programs are a great way to learn about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife from knowledgeable and passionate experts. We happened upon a talk, but it was so hot that we hopped back in our car and kept going.

Pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and a downloaded map for your journey, and don’t forget to dress in layers as temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day. It’s also important to remember that the park is located in a remote area, so cell phone service may be limited or nonexistent.

The reason this park is a must-see when in South Dakota is hard to explain, but I would return just for a drive-through this 24 mile long park.


3. Most Important Travel Tip for The Badlands National Park

You will miss the beauty if you just drive through. I highly recommend downloading the Trip Advisor Self-Guided Audio Tour of the Badlands National Park for your car. You download it to your phone back at the hotel. The email you receive tells you to start it when you get past the park entrance.

Tip: your bluetooth must be turned on so that the app will know where you are. It starts talking as you roll past the one mile mark approximately.

Then it stops and when you get to the second out of 24 stops, it starts talking again. We LOVED it!

You will know you are done because it tells you you are at the last stop. We then turned around and drove back through without making any stops.

From our weekend visit we found:


3 Other Day Trips to Do Near Mount Rushmore

May I suggest 3 other must-see trips close to The Badlands? And do not miss the best restaurant in Rapid City either!

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