I remember going to Badlands National Park in South Dakota with my parents when I was a teenager. My father was interested in trying to retrace the steps of Army Lieut. Col. George Custer who made it into this area in the 1870s. When George Custer and his men ventured into this region in 1874 they found gold. For thousands of years before Custer or the white man ever arrived on this land Indians called it their own. The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. 100 years ago, the Great Sioux Nation consisting of seven bands including the Oglala Lakota, had displaced all the other tribes from the northern prairie.
This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. The Badlands is a very cool combination of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).
Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization. The Badlands are home to the largest mixed-grass prairie in the National Park System and is surrounded by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Wildlife roams the park’s boundaries as well. Bison, pronghorn, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles, and hawks are just some of the wildlife that can often be seen by visitors.
Badlands National Park is located 75 miles east of Rapid City South Dakota or 4 miles south of Wall South Dakota. You can get to this area by traveling on I 90 exit 131. Exit 131 takes you to Highway 240. You can also get to the Pinnacles Entrance of the park by taking exit 110 off of I 90 and following Highway 240. The Highway 240, Badlands Loop Road, accessed from Interstate 90, is a two-lane, paved surface that takes you through the North Unit of the park.
The Sage Creek Rim Road (590) is a gravel road that takes you along the north rim of the Badlands. The Sheep Mountain Table Road is four miles south of Scenic, SD on Pennington County Road 589. High clearance vehicles are recommended. The road is passable under dry conditions only. Impassable when wet or snow covered.
There are two campgrounds located inside Badlands National Park. Cedar pass campground has 96 level sites with scenic views of the Badlands formations. Some campsites have limited electrical service. A dump station is available and there is also cold running water, flush toilets and some covered picnic table areas are there.
Four campsites are available in the Cedar Pass Campground for large organized groups with a designated leader.
Sage Creek campground located off the Sage Creek Rim Road allows you to camp there free of charge. Pit toilets and covered picnic table areas are available at that campground, but there is no potable water available at that site.
Backpackers may also camp anywhere in the park that is at least one-half mile from any road or trail and not visible from park roads. Because only the Castle Trail strays far from the main road, most backpackers set out cross country on routes of their own. When doing so, topographic maps are strongly recommended, if not essential. In the North Unit, the 64,250 acre Badlands Wilderness Area is ideal for backpackers. Leave your car at the Sage Creek primitive campground, and follow Sage Creek into the wilderness.
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!badlands national park there are 6 free campsites within 15 miles of Badlands National Park. They all appear to be dispersed camping.
—-Hiking & Biking & Horseback Riding—-
Badlands National Park offers lots of designated hiking trails that allow you to experience the beauty of the park up close and personal. Hikes range from flat stretches through the prairie landscape to uphill climbs through the Badlands formations.
—-Things to Do—-
I remember seeing the signs for Wall Drug miles and miles before we ever got to the store. Wall Drug consists of many stores under one roof all owned by a single owner. I remember the store had everything from toys to homemade donuts… I believe we all stopped and had a burger and fry there also. Everywhere you looked on the walls inside the store was Western artwork…