In the rugged beauty of South Dakota’s prairie landscape lies a wonderland of towering spires, deep canyons, and ancient fossils: Badlands National Park. Families seeking adventure, discovery, and a connection to the wild west will find Badlands to be the perfect destination. Here are eight reasons why Badlands is an ideal place for families to explore:

Door Trail: Begin your journey with an easy stroll along the Door Trail, where a wooden boardwalk leads through a gap in the Badlands Wall. Kids will delight in the chance to walk through this unique landscape and discover the wonders hidden beyond each turn.

Notch Trail: For a more adventurous outing, tackle the Notch Trail, which features a ladder climb and stunning views of the White River Valley below. Hold hands as a family and conquer the challenge together, rewarded with panoramic vistas at the trail’s end.

Fossil Exhibit Trail: Step back in time along the Fossil Exhibit Trail, where replicas of prehistoric creatures and informative displays offer insight into the park’s rich fossil history. Kids can unleash their inner paleontologists as they learn about the ancient inhabitants of the Badlands.

Big Badlands Overlook: Marvel at the vast expanse of the Badlands from the Big Badlands Overlook. Watch as the sun casts dramatic shadows over the rugged terrain, illuminating the layers of colorful sedimentary rock that tell the story of millions of years of geological history.

Window Trail: Explore the fascinating rock formations of the Window Trail, where a natural arch frames sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Encourage the kids to look for wildlife hiding among the rocks, from bighorn sheep to prairie dogs.

Junior Ranger Program: Engage the whole family in the park’s Junior Ranger Program, where kids can learn about the importance of conservation and preservation through fun and educational activities. Upon completion, they’ll earn a badge and a sense of pride in their newfound knowledge.

Saddle Pass Trail: Challenge your family to a hike up Saddle Pass Trail, where steep switchbacks lead to breathtaking vistas overlooking the Badlands. Take breaks along the way to catch your breath and appreciate the beauty of the rugged terrain.

Night Sky Viewing: End your day with a mesmerizing display of stars as you gaze up at the pristine night sky above the Badlands. Away from city lights, the park offers unparalleled opportunities for stargazing and marveling at the wonders of the cosmos.

With its unique landscapes, rich history, and opportunities for adventure, Badlands National Park offers families a chance to connect with nature and create lasting memories together. Pack your bags, hit the trails, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the wild west.


We took months planning our two week family summer vacation. It was strategically designed to visit as many national parks as possible. We packed our 2008 Honda Accord and left on a Friday evening. We found a hotel and slept in West Virginia. Next we drove to visit relatives in Missouri. The next day we traveled until we made it to Badlands National Park…

Canceled July 20, 2010