When I think back to our trip to the Badlands National Park, the one word that springs to mind is breathtaking! Literally the moment we drove into the park and saw our first vista I was gobsmacked! But stunning vistas aren’t usually the thing that impresses children. But in my opinion National Parks are one of the best holidays you can do with kids and I would rank the Badlands up there as on of the best! In this guide we round – up the best things to do when visiting the Badlands with kids!
How to get to Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is located on the I-90 near to the town of Wall! When we visited the Park we decided to drive from Rapid City as there are more child friendly amenities there. It was an easy drive and we set off early so we were in the park before 8am.
Planning a Trip to Badlands National Park with kids
Best Time of Year to Visit Badlands National Park with Kids
South Dakota can get cold in the winter – and by cold – I mean very cold! I normally recommend visiting National Park out of season however Badlands is one of the parks I do suggest visiting in Summer. The Park is glorious in summer and the crowds, compared to other national parks like Yellowstone, aren’t too bad in the summer! Otherwise I recommend visiting in one of the shoulder seasons but try to look at those that have slightly warmer weather.
We have a complete South Dakota Summer Packing List here for to make your trip planning easier!
Best Places to Stay Near Badlands National Park
There are lodges to stay in in the nearby Wall however we chose to stay in Rapid City as there are so many things to do and it has great proximity to other South Dakota Attractions!
Top Tips for Visiting Badlands with kids
I recommend visiting any National Park early in the morning as it is a better time to see wildlife and to beat the crowds. The park gets more crowded the later in the day you go. We arrived at the park to see sunrise and it was simply breathtaking and we pretty much were the only people in the park! Early evening is also a great time to visit as is slightly less crowded but for me early morning is definitely the time you want to go
Buy a National Parks Pass
If you are planning to visit two or more parks in a year then a National Park Pass will definitely be a money saver!
Tips for Hiking in Badlands
Badlands has some amazing hikes for people of all abilities. One of the biggest attractions for visiting Badlands National Park is that you can climb and hike anywhere! There are no restrictions!
General Hiking 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 information on the best and easiest hikes in Badlands National Park click here!
Top Things to do in Badlands with kids
Find the Prairie Dogs at Roberts Town
Not on the main loop road, Roberts Town is on an offshoot road. It is a short drive and it is well worth the slight detour!
Tip: Be sure to keep your children well back from the Prarie Dogs as they do bite!
Spot the Bison
Now Yellowstone is most well known for its bison but we actually had better bison experiences in Badlands. We even got to see a herd stampede which was astounding!
Drive the Scenic Loop Road
There is a great scenic drive through Badlands. There are plenty of look outs on the drive and opportunities to get onto some easy trail heads! In total the loop road is only 40 miles long and is just off the I-90 which makes it a very accessible national park!
Junior Ranger Program
Now my little one was too young to take part in this but the Junior Park Ranger program is something I have admired for. a long time, and will definitely be introducing my little one to as soon as she is old enough!
Hunt for Dinosaurs
In 2010, a child taking part in the junior ranger programme found a sabre tooth tiger skull. If you have an avid dinosaur fan, this is a great place to learn more about dinosaurs especially on the Fossil Exhibit Trail – and who know history may repeat itself!
The Badlands National Park is so remote it has a great Dark Sky Stargazing programme.
Hiking in Badlands National Park with Kids
This is perhaps the most famous of all the trails in Badlands National Park! One of the reasons that this is so well known is because you have to climb up and down quite a scary ladder to make it onto the trail. As much as we would have loved to do this hike, I didn’t think it looked particularly family friendly certainly as we were travelling with a toddler. I personally wouldn’t recommend this trail for those with young families or even contemplate doing this even wearing a carrier!
Once you are on the trail however, it is only a mile and a half not over particularly rough terrain!
A quarter of a mile boardwalk trail that is exceptionally easy and can be done by families even with very young children!
A very short walk at .25 miles. Again another board walk trail making it very easy to do with children!
Fossil Exhibit Trail
Another extremely easy walk on a board walk. This is a great one to engage any dinosaur loving kids!
Excursions In the Badlands
We found that there are very tour operators or excursions offered within the Badlands National Park so you are better planning and doing this itinerary on your own! If you are looking to do more excursion and activity based things then be sure to add Custer State Park to your itinerary!
Things to Do Near the Badlands National Park with Kids
Yes it is touristy but Wall Drug is a definite must if not just to get some amazing souvenir! No matter which way you are driving to the Badlands from (Rapid City or Sioux Falls) you will see the highway side littered with giant billboards advertising Wall Drug. You have to make a stop here!
It also has a cafeteria where you can grab refreshments. I would personally recommend getting the coffee and the donuts!
MinuteMan Missile Site
A short 20 minute drive from the Badlands Visitor Centre is the Missile Site – if time allows this is a great thing to add onto your trip!
Have you been to Badlands with kids? What are your tips?