AAA Travel Tips / Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Shutterstock/Sharon Day
By AAA Travel Editors
December 16, 2021
Travel off the beaten path to glimpse breathtaking American beauty.
White River Visitor Center (South Unit)
Open seasonally, summer only
Open daily, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., as staff is available. Visitor center is staffed by rangers who must also respond to emergencies and other events in the park. Please call ahead or check status at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.

Entrance Fees

● Private: Non‐Commercial Vehicle; $15 - Valid for 7 days
● Individual - hike, bicycle; $7 - Valid for 7 days
● Motorcycle; $10 - Valid for 7 days


Tent, RV, Electric Hook Ups ($20-$35 per night)


Short Hikes/Walks, Backcountry Hikes, Accessible Trail


Cedar Pass Lodge, 20681 SD‐240, Interior, SD 57750, Reservations: (877) 386-4383


Cedar Pass Lodge, 20681 SD‐240, Interior, SD 57750 (605) 433-5460

The rugged beauty of the Badlands draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse and saber‐toothed cat once roamed here.
The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed‐grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black‐footed ferrets live today.

Major Points of Interest

Ben Reifel Visitor Center (Park Information Center), Hwy 240 route through the park, Fossil Exhibit Trail, Notch Trail, Roberts Prairie Dog Town.

Insider Tips

Exploring the South Unit
We encourage anyone interested in backcountry hiking or camping in the South Unit to notify a ranger at the White River Visitor Center to ensure your safety and that you are not trespassing on private lands. Explorers must often cross private land to access the public land. Always obtain permission from landowners for vehicular or foot access before setting out for Cuny Table, Stronghold Table and Palmer Creek. A list of landowners is available at the White River Visitor Center. Be prepared with alternative destinations if landowners do not grant permission to cross their property. Hikers in the South Unit must be experienced map readers. Plan on a minimum of two days to hike in and out of the remote Palmer Creek area.
The White River Visitor Center is open seasonally. To contact please call (605) 455‐2878.

Ranger Tips

Called “mako sica” or “land bad” by the local Lakota and les “mauvaises terres à traverser” or “bad lands to travel across” by the early French trappers, both descriptions invoke visions of a harsh and inhospitable landscape, where dangers lurk down every canyon. Despite the introduction of visitor services, overlooks and a scenic road, the Badlands environment still remains a rugged, untamed and remote country. While hiking, exploring and traveling through the park, it is important to follow safety precautions and park regulations to enjoy a safe visit and prevent injuries.

Fun Facts

During the Age of Dinosaurs, a warm, shallow sea covered the Great Plains, including what is now Badlands. Since dinosaurs were land creatures, no fossils of these animals have been found in the park. Giant marine lizards called mosasaurs swam in the ancient sea, along with sea turtles and fish.
The former “Pig Dig” was discovered in June 1993 when two visitors from Iowa discovered a large backbone protruding from the ground near the Conata Picnic Area. Originally thought to be a 4‐day excavation, field work continued for over a decade, yielding more than 10,000 fossilized bones for study.

Have a Little Extra Time?

Consider these additional sites:
Enter the town of Wall, South Dakota, and follow the signs to the Wall Drug Store. It is a unique attraction which South Dakota is famous for.

Ben Reifel Visitor Center
20695 South Dakota Highway 240
Interior, SD 57750
Ben Reifel Visitor Center (North Unit)
Open Year Round
Hours of Operation - Mountain Time Zone
8 a.m.-4 p.m. (Winter Hours)
8 a.m.-5 p.m. (mid‐April to mid‐May)
8 a.m.-7 p.m. (Summer Hours)
8 a.m.-5 p.m. (early September to late October)
*Visitor Center closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day

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