The Badlands weren’t in our original itinerary. We squeezed them in at the end of a very long day (after seeing the Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore) and unfortunately the lighting wasn’t great by the time we got there and we didn’t have a lot of energy left to get out and walk around.
Nonetheless I’m really glad we went. If you have made it to Rapid City it is only 88 more miles to get to the Badlands and the Highway 240 Loop Road through the park only takes an extra 60 minutes if you don’t stop.
Passport Stamp: Inside the Visitor Centre mid way through the park.
Accommodations: There are campgrounds inside the park as well as Cedar Pass Lodge (located by the visitor center). Rapid City is the closest large-ish city.
Approximate Time: 60 minutes – half a day.
Worth the Trip: Absolutely.
Jr. Ranger Program: Available in the Visitor Centre give yourself about an hour to complete it
Admission: $15 for 7 days.
If we were to go again, I’d try to make sure we had enough time to get out and do a few short walks.
It’s amazing how fast the scenery changes while you go through. Similar to Drumheller in Alberta, this area is also a large fossil bed. It is considered to be one of the richest mammal fossil beds in the world.
There are two stops (one on each end of the loop road) that I would also recommend.
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is on the Badlands Loop and is located south of I-90 at exit 131. It closes at 4:30pm so it unfortunately wasn’t open while we passed through. At the site is a underground launch control centre and a missile silo from the cold war. The visitor centre gives you some insight into the cold war period and gives information about what the missile sites were really like as opposed to what you see in the movies.
You can see the Missile Silo May 2 – October 31 with no reservations. You can also get a tour of the launch control centre. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they offer short tours in the morning for the first 200 visitors. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Friday and Saturdays you can get a formal tour but you need to make reservations in advance. See the Minuteman Missile website for more information.
You can also get a stamp for your passport book at the visitor centre and they offer a Junior ranger program for kids 7 and up.
The 2nd stop is located in Wall South Dakota at the West end of the Badlands Loop. It’s pretty hard to miss Wall Drug. There are billboards along the way starting miles away. Offering things like free ice water, homemade doughnuts and 5 cent coffee. By the time we saw our 50th sign, we knew we had to go see what it was. It was pretty much what we had expected. It’s a large building complex that feels like a cross between a flea market and a mom and pop store. This was our last stop of the day.
They have a lot of souvenir areas, as well as a kids play space, a large western art gallery along the walls of the cafe and half a T-Rex up on the wall that moves and roars a few times an hour. Gordie was not fond of the T-Rex. If you have a kid would might also find it scary, I would suggest taking a look at the map and being very careful going into the back building. We we at the opposite end of the building and it still made Gordie burst into tears. You can find more about Wall Drug at http://walldrug.com