The Badlands are absolutely HUGE! It consists of three units totaling more than 240,000 acres!!! The North Unit is the most well known and the most easily explored area. It includes a Badlands Loop Road with scenic overlooks and trail heads. We only had time to take part of this loop and get out of the car for a few short hikes.
The Badlands are well-known for their rattlesnakes. We saw these signs everywhere. We mostly stayed on or near the paths, and we never saw or heard any snakes. Thank goodness!
If you enter the Badlands from the north, the first scenic overlook is The Big Badlands Overlook. Wow! When you grow up in Wisconsin, the land of dense pine forests, to see a landscape like this you feel like you're on another planet. I could not believe this was only eight hours from my house in the woods! How is this possible?
My husband was crazy brave and walked off the path and onto the pinnacles. I played it safe, and stuck to the path. Especially after seeing the rattlesnake signs.
The barren landscape as far as the eye could see combined with the beauty of the colorful sand and stone formations was just jaw dropping.
If you're looking at this landscape and wondering what in the world do you do in this national park, my answer is "Lots!". Like any national park, it is loaded with hiking trails of all levels of difficulties. Due to time constraints, we stuck with the shorter hikes/scenic overlooks that were within a few feet from our car or were a mile or less. If you don't like to hike, you don't need to. Just sit back in your car and drool! You can take the loop and see sights you've never seen before! You might even get lucky and see some wildlife. We saw a coyote and a bighorn sheep, but I read they have bison as well.
We had some type of biting invisible bug biting us when we first stopped and got out of the car. But after we sprayed ourselves with bug spray, they left us alone. I have no idea what type of bug it was; nothing we have in Wisconsin that's for sure. So if you visit the Badlands, bring some bug spray!
Every time we stopped, the formations or landscape seemed a little different than the previous stop.
Our final stop was a mix of barren desert landscape and forest. It was our favorite hike in the park (although we didn't do much, so that's bound to change when we go back and explore more!). It is called the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. It is a moderate 0.5 mile loop trail that follows boardwalks and climbs stairs through a juniper forest perched along the Badlands Wall. It climbs approximately 200 feet in elevation.
We were blessed to see a Native American arrive with his son to perform a ceremonial dance. We did ask their permission to watch and photograph. The little boy was SO CUTE!
I loved the mix of evergreens and desert. I read that at certain times of the year a small pond exists in this area that attracts wildlife. Perhaps that is why this area is so green too!
So what about you. Have you ever been to the Badlands? What do you think of this unique landscape? Is this someplace you'd like to visit? I'd love to hear from you.
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