Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Our Fall Vacation to South Dakota: Day 1: The Badlands National Park

 Today begins a new travel series of a vacation I took with my husband to South Dakota back in September.  Even though South Dakota is only a few hours away from my home, I had never been there before.  But after one visit, I can't wait to go back;  especially to the Badlands.  We did not get to spend near enough time there.  It was basically just a pit stop on our way to our hotel for the night in Rapid City.  But what we did see took my breath away, and I made my husband promise me we'd be back next summer/fall to explore it more.



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!


 You see such different landscapes in the Badlands.  This was an area where we did get off the beaten path a bit and walked around.  My husband even climbed up some of the formations.  When I got back to my hotel that night I noticed that my feet and legs were covered with white dust!


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.

There are some gorgeous panoramic views on this trail.


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 appreciated the well-maintained trail.



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!




 It was with great regret and sadness I had to leave this place so soon!  As we exited the park on the opposite side, the views seemed to get better and better, but we had no time to stop the car and take pictures.  I was actually depressed about it and I must admit it put a slight damper on the rest of my vacation because I felt like I missed out.  My husband kept reassuring me though that we would go back...so I'm holding him to it!

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.

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!


29 comments:

  1. WOW! These pictures are incredible! I've never been to the Badlands but clearly I'm missing out. Thanks for sharing these pictures of your amazing visit!
    Gina || On the Daily Express

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    1. Thanks Gina! I hope your able to get there someday. It really is an incredible place!

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  2. I would love to visit that area some day and go hiking. It's such a unique landscape. Happy Halloween.
    X, Julie | This Main Line Life

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  3. I have not been to South Dakota, but have a goal to visit all 50 states once I retire. The Badlands may have to be on my list after seeing your photos. Thanks for sharing, Amy!

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    1. Well, if you ever make it to SD, you must see the Badlands! And Custer State Park. They were my favorites!

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  4. Hi Amy, this area is so rugged and barren yet so beautiful. I'm sure you felt 'small' in such a vast area. Thank you for sharing your travels with us at #MLSTL and have a beautiful week. xx

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    1. Oh, I definitely did Sue! The amount of land was unreal!

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  5. Really spectacular scenery Amy - not somewhere I'd want to spend too much time, but it certainly lives up to its name!
    MLSTL and I've shared on my SM :)

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    1. Oh, it is spectacular. Even more so in real life.

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  6. Wow! These are beautiful photos! I haven't been to the badlands in years! I think we need to think about a family trip eventually!

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    1. It is a very nice family trip as the hiking isn't too difficult.

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  7. Oh wow, it looks beautiful! We have nothing like that here in Australia, what a stunning place to visit (as long as you bring bug spray, ha!)


    Hope that you are having a good week and a nice start to November! :)

    Away From The Blue Blog

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    1. Thanks Mica! America has so much diverse landscape!

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  8. I had been blessed to see most of the big National Parks in the SW as well as Yellowstone and Glacier. I spent a lot of time in AZ and loved the red rocks. When new hubby and I ended up doing Sturgis for almost 3 weeks a few years back, we decided to stay in Wall SD (in our RV) and visit the Badlands. I figured I'd seen it all before. NOT!!! I was so amazed at the diversity there...I now recommend it to everyone!!! Our photos: https://froggi.smugmug.com/Travel/2010-Visiting/2010-Visiting-Badlands

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    1. My husband and I have been thinking of taking a trip to Glacier soon! The photos and videos we've seen look amazing. I really want to spend more time in AZ too. I only made one brief stop to see a portion of the Grand Canyon. We drove past Sturgis when we were in the area, but didn't stop. And, if we ever make it back to the Badlands, we decided we would spend the night in Wall! We stopped briefly at Wall Drug and saw there were several nice hotels we could stay at. I'll excited to check out your photos of the Badlands this weekend!

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  9. I've never been to South Dakota either. Oooh, rattlesnakes! Eek! There are a lot of places 3 hours from St. Louis and we've never made the trip, but need to someday. Nature is def. at its finest out there!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

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    1. Carrie we've spent a week exploring your state, and you're right, there are some really amazing places. You need to get to Ha Ha Tonka State Park! Wow!

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  10. These are fabulous photos Amy. I LOVED visiting the Badlands a couple of years ago, and want to go back so badly!! I think it's about a 14 hour drive for us, but so worth it! How amazing that you got to see the Native Americans too!

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    1. Thanks Ellie! Wow, that's a lot longer drive for you. Do you break it up by spending the night somewhere?

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  11. What a co-incidence! My husband and I just started talking this week about a South Dakota vacation next year; Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, etc. I began looking up things to do there and I am so taken by the scenery!

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    1. Oh my gosh, GO! I wish I would have gone earlier and taken my kids. What an experience! Especially Custer State Park. That was my absolute favorite. Be sure to take the "4 to 8 hour" hike up to Harney Peak. It is difficult, but so worth it!

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  12. Thank you Amy for linking up at the #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty 32! Shared x 4.

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  13. Isn't it an amazing place, Amy? Lovely shots brought back memories of our visit there.
    Thank you for participating in the Travel Tuesday Meme.

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