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.

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.



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

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

36 comments:

  1. We didn't see any animals or do any hiking when we were at the badlands. By that point in our trip west I was just finished and it was SO HOT. I would love to go back one day and see more of them though.

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    1. It was really hot when we were there too, but it was also late in the afternoon and honestly I didn't feel hot...that dry hear I guess. I know the trick to hiking in desert climates is always hike in the early morning or late afternoon and take a siesta in the middle of the day. :)

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  2. Gosh, this looks amazing Amy. If my mom were with us, it'd definitely be the car ride to the top. But I would love to try the hike. I noticed you didn't use your hiking poles. Would they not have helped??
    XOOX
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

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    1. It really is an amazing park. You have a very keen eye! Twice on my vacation I left my sticks in the car and I really regretted it and I said "From now on, the sticks come with me whether I think I need them or not. They do fold up and can be carried in my back pack". I thought it was such a short hike, I wouldn't need them. I'm still not sure they would have worked, as the ground was so hard and dry and was basically loose gravel on top on hard earth. The point of the stick would need to penetrate and grab hold of the earth so I wouldn't slip.

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  3. God's beauty in all of these photos!! Ohh, I love how you share a little bit of all your travels with us. It looks lovely.

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

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  4. Oh my God! What a view! What a trip! Amazing!

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  5. O MY!! Amazing photos!! Just stunning!! Thanks so much for sharing and thanks for taking the time to visit!!
    Hugs,
    Debbie

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  6. Amazing pictures with incredible views! We mostly did the loop when we visited because we had my dad with us, but there were still plenty of places for short hikes and beautiful views. Definitely a place I want to visit again!

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    1. Thank you! Yea, we had to come back to explore more too!

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  7. wow que fotos mas espectaculares, me ha gustado mucho, que gran viaje, y los animales que cerca los tuvisteis

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    1. Thank you! It's always a highlights to see animals in a park.

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  8. It's a shame the way down was so scary and difficult as you got some really great photos and views on your hike!

    Hope you are having a great weekend :) We finally have a sunny day after some rainy ones so will make the most of it!

    Away From The Blue

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    1. It wasn't scary, just challenging. Thanks so much.

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  9. Enjoyed seeing your pics! Thanks so much for linking up at the Unlimited Link Party 36. Pinned!

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  10. Beautiful photos and of course you. I don't think the world is that small after all. The untouched nature is impressive.

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  11. These are wonderful images of the Badlands!

    Thanks for sharing your link at My Corner of the World this week!

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  12. Such beautiful landscapes. So great you two got out there and got to enjoy those trails. Glad you had each other. Must have been some very cool adventures. Such a historic site. Thanks so much for your comments too❤

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    1. Thanks so much! It was great I had hubby to lean on!

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  13. WOW.. Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. Adding South Dakota to the list of places we have to go to.

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    1. It's a beautiful state, with beautiful parks...especially Custer State Park.

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  14. I love the vastness of the park, it's beautiful!

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  15. Love seeing your photos! Those views are amazing! So cool to see the wildlife up close!

    Jill - Doused in Pink

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    1. Thank you! We were so thrilled to see wildlife the second time around.

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