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Exploring the Unique Geology of Badlands National Park


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Photo by @everettm

Ever since the movies such as Mad Max and Star Wars, viewers have wanted to venture to the remote places seen in the films. Fortunate for them, traveling to a desert full of scenic buttes gives an area a certain alienated appeal. Areas like this can be found across the world today and are more accessible than you might think. 

Badlands National Park:

Located in North Dakota, Badlands National Park covers over 200,000 sq miles of desert space full of pinnacles and buttes. Visiting Badlands National Park has become increasingly popular over the years, as people across the states have begun to discover this unique landscape. Full of Mars-like views and remote hiking trails, Badlands National Park is a bucket-list-worthy trip. Here are a few tips you may need to know when visiting Badlands National Park

History of Badlands National Park:

Before becoming a National Park in 1978, the area of Badlands was home to many Native Americans who used the land as their hunting grounds. Because of towering rock structures, the area was the ideal place to hunt for animals.

The name Badlands originates from the meaning “bad land to travel through.”Previous to the establishment, the area was viewed as unsafe. The area soon became a National Monument in 1939 before ultimately becoming a National Park years later. Presently, the area has been designated for its mammalian fossil beds as well as its public access to visitors. 

Visiting Badlands National Park:

Visiting Badlands National Park is most ideal between August and December. Since the area of Badlands is primarily a desert, avoiding the summer season is recommended as the park can reach temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The two campgrounds found inside the National Park are Sage Creek and Cedar Pass. Both campgrounds offer outlets into the park’s hikes and are both great spots to watch the sunset. If you don’t manage to get one of the 100+ available campsites, backpacking permits and motels are accessible year-round. 

Reservations can be made here

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Photo by @lukewass

Visiting Badlands National Park gives you a plethora of options when it comes to hiking and exploring. Start off your trip by driving along the most scenic road in the park, Loop Road. This 39-mile drive will give you panoramic views of Burns Basin Overlook and Panorama Point. Be sure to bring both your camera and camera strap so that you can capture these amazing landscapes on film. Expect to encounter bison, prairie dogs, and bighorn sheep along the way. 

Popular Hikes in Badlands National Park:

Medicine Root Trail (4-miles) - One of the most popular hikes in the park, this trail immerses you into the great plains and prairie environment that the park has to offer. Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes!

Fossil Exhibit Trail (.4-miles) - Full of historical information on the animals that used to live in the park, the fossil exhibit trail is a nice short trail if you happen to have young children. Even if you don’t, be sure to take a short walk down this trail. 

Notch Trail (1.5-miles) - Although this trail is fairly short, you must be in good physical condition before attempting this hike. Start off by climbing a man-made log ladder before walking along the trail ledge. Using a hiking pole is recommended when hiking this trail.

Other notable hiking trails include Saddle Pass Trail, Castle Trail, and The Door Trail

Visiting Badlands National Park will be like nothing you’ve experienced before. Due to its extremely hot climate, bringing sun protection is a must. Also be sure to bring plenty of water, comfortable hiking shoes, and lots of snacks. Be sure to plan accordingly and have fun exploring this alien-like landscape found in North Dakota!

Written by @visualsbyry