We were at this part of the park at dusk, so we saw a lot of wildlife. I highly recommend you drive this road in the late afternoon/early evening, right before the sun sets, because you will not only get to see gorgeous sunsets, but you will see lots of animals out feeding for the night.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Exploring the Great West: Day 1, Part 2, The Badlands National Park: Hiking Saddle Pass and Driving the Badlands Loop Road
This is a continuation of a travel series to The Great West. To start at the beginning, go HERE!
On day one of our vacation we returned to the Badlands National Park. We had already visited for a short time in 2019 but we loved it so much we promised ourselves we would return someday and explore more. We still only had one half day to spend in the Badlands, as the first half of the day was spent just getting there. But since we had been there before, it turned out a half day was all that was needed. There were only two trails left we wanted to hike: Notch Trail (which I covered in last week's post) and Saddle Pass Trail.
Saddle Pass Trail is only a .25 mile round trip trail. I know that sounds so short, and it is, but it is VERY, VERY STEEP and STRENUOUS. This trail is marked as strenuous on the park trail guide. It is such a steep and slippery trail I found it almost impossible to climb. I was constantly slipping on the gravel and I don't think I could have even done it at all if my husband wasn't there for me to hold onto. But, if you can do this trail, I recommend it, because the views are spectacular!
There's this cute bridge right by the parking lot that leads to the trail. Because of the steepness and the slippy gravel, it is not recommended hiking this trail after a rain (does it ever really rain in the Badlands though?)
This short trail climbs up the Badlands Wall to a view over the White River Valley.
Like most of the Badlands, there isn't much shade so when I found a shady spot, I stopped to rest awhile.
Once you reach the top, you get the stunning views of the White River Valley. Here you can connect to either the Castle or Medicine Root Loop Trail (Those are 10 miles and 4 miles trails, so we skipped those. Plus, they just go through the flat prairies of the valley. Nothing too exciting except cactus and rattle snakes) or go back the way you came.
Before we made the decent back down, we spent quite a bit of time up on top just exploring.
Hubby even went rock climbing to capture me in the middle of the photo below. That is his shadow in the picture. Isn't that cool?
You can see the parking lot and the steep trail you climbed to get up this high.
It was really fun just wandering around up on the top butte. However, the descent down was not fun. I wanted to just get down on my butt and slide down, but hubby wouldn't let me cause he said I'd ruin my clothes. The only way then I could make it down was if he went ahead of me, and I put my hands on his shoulders, and allowed myself just to slide and crash right into him. His bulky frame never wavered when I would crash right into him. You would have thought I would have knocked him down, but he stayed solid. I couldn't believe they didn't have any type of chain or hand rail to hang on to, but hubby said the rocks were too unstable and a chain or railing would have just pulled right out.
Eventually we made it safely down and I was quite relieved. Now it was time to just get back in the car and enjoy the Badlands scenic loop road on the way out of the park.
There are not anymore trails after this point, just plenty of parking lots and pull overs to enjoy all these spectacular scenic views.
This would be a great road to take Grandma on, children, or anyone who may enjoy beautiful views but can't hike or doesn't enjoy hiking.
This stop told the story of a war between the Native Americans and the military in this area.
My favorite part of this scenic road was Yellow Mounds. Oh my, I felt I was in a scene from "Lord of the Rings" when I was in this area of the park. The color seemed so magical I expected to see a hobbit pop out.
"These strangely colored mounds are the result of an ancient sea draining away and the chemicals from decaying plants turning the soil yellow." (source)
Oh, such beauty, every where I looked!
And just as reached the end of the scenic road, and we were about to exit the park, we saw our very first buffalo of the trip. We were so excited! Little did I know that by the time this trip would be over, I would have seen hundreds of buffalo.
I hope you enjoyed my return visit to the Badlands. Next week, I will back with another South Dakota adventure at Bear Butte State Park. It was one of the most thrilling hikes of my life!
Have a Great Day! Amy
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