Looking for the best hikes in Badlands National Park? In this guide we will round up the best and easiest hikes in Badlands National Park along with top tips for hiking in the park along with all the essentials to take with you to make the most of your day!
How to get to Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is located on the I-90 near to the town of Wall which is definitely worth a visit by the way especially to shop for souvenirs! When we visited the Park we decided to drive from Rapid City as there are more child friendly amenities there and it was a great central location to complete our South Dakota itinerary. It was an easy drive and takes about an hour and is only about an hour and a half away from from South Dakota’s other main attraction Mount Rushmore.
What is the best time for hiking in Badlands National Park
South Dakota can get very cold in winter – I mean VERY cold. And while cold doesn’t prevent you hiking it can close some of the trails at Badlands National Park an make hiking WAY more difficult which is why we recommend not visiting Badlands in winter if you want to do some great trails. So what is the best time for hiking in Badlands National Park?
Hiking Badlands National Park in Summer
We visited Badlands National Park in summer and must admit it was glorious. In fact I think it was the best national park we visited in summer. By comparison to other parks like Yellowstone, Badlands is a quieter park to visit in summer months. We also found it not too hot, unlike when we visited Moab in Summer which you really needed to be in the park very early in to do any hikes because of the heat.
However if you don’t want to visit in peak summer, then I would try late spring and early Fall for visiting Badlands National Park. The weather should be more temperate and therefore less likely to have trails closed while having the benefit of not being as crowded.
The rainiest months to visit Badlands National Park is in May and June so if you do go during these months be sure to take plenty of wet weather hiking gear.
Best Hikes in Badlands National Park
The door trail was the first trail that we hiked in Badlands National Park. And this is the case for a lot of people as it is one of the buser trails in the park. We arrived at the Badlands for sunrise so it wasn’t too busy then so I definitely recommend getting an early start.
This trail has a boardwalk which means that it is really easy to do even if you are visiting Badlands National Park with kids like we were. There is however a section beyond the boardwalk trail that can be accessed but would require extra caution. As we were travelling with our toddler we stuck to the boardwalk on the this trail.
The trail is about 1 mile for a round trip.
Window Trail – an easy hike in Badlands National Park
The Window Trail is another super easy hike in Badlands National Park. In fact I would say that this is the easiest hike in Badlands National Park. This is another Boardwalk trail which means that it has reasonably good accessibility and can be done by visitors of all abilities and ages and the fact that this trail is so short as well – at only a quarter of a mile in length – makes it a perfect hike to do with kids.
Fossil Exhibit Trail – the best hike in Badlands National Park with kids
The Fossil Exhibit Trail at Badlands National Park was my toddlers favourite and I would say is the best Badlands National Park hike with kids, especially kids who love dinosaurs. This trail is another that runs to only a quarter of a mile in length but has loads of great family friendly interpretation along the way. My little ones favourite part of this trail were the replica fossils that you could touch along the way.
Cliff Shelf Trail
The Cliff Shelf Nature Trail is another relatively easy hike in Badlands National Park. The trail is a combination of boardwalk and stairs so be sure to use a carrier if you are travelling with little ones.
The hike is around half a mile in length.
Notch Trail – a must do in Badlands National Park
This is one of the more famous trails in Badlands National Park but it is also one of the more strenuous. We were travelling to Badlands National Park with kids, a toddler to be exact and this trail was a step too far with such a little one. The reason for this is because to get to the trail you ave to descend a steep log ladder with many rungs. But the descent is rewarded with stunning views of the Badlands. It is not a trail that I felt comfortable doing while having a carrier on me so we had to tag team this part of the park. With older kids however I think the ladder would add a really fun element to the trail. However there are some sheer from offs on this trail so caution would be needed.
Also worth noting: I am not a big fan of heights and sheer drops so this hike really tested my hiking resolve.
Hiking in Badlands General Tips
- Take plenty of water
- Pack layers whatever the season
- Take hats and suncream to protect from the sun
- Pack good hiking boots
- Respect the wildlife
For more tips on visiting and hiking national parks with toddlers check out this post.
Other great things to do in Badlands National Park
- Visit the Prairie Dogs at Roberts Town
This is not on the main loop road of Badlands National Park but Roberts Town is on an offshoot road of it. It is a short drive and it is well worth the slight detour as there you get to see a lot of Prairie dogs. Kids will particularly love seeing this but be sure to keep them close and don’t let them try and touch the Prairie dogs.
- Go Stargazing
The night sky at Badlands National Park is amazing. If you do get chance to visit the park at night then you should.
- Junior Rangers Badge
If you are traveling to Badlands with kids then why not let them do their junior ranger badge.
Have you been hiking in Badlands National Park? What is your favourite park?