Day 6 Visiting Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Pinnacles Entrance at the Badlands National Park

Pinnacles Entrance at the Badlands National Park

Prior to leaving for the Badlands National Park I took Boomer out to the hotel’s approved patch of pet grass for his morning potty break and witness something strange. There was a man also with his dog. The dog relieved it’s self and the man and dog went back into their hotel room. Shortly there after the man appeared again with the dog, took it over to the grass and again the dog relieved it’s self. He went back into the hotel and appeared again with the dog, back to the grass, it relieved it’s self and they went back into the hotel room.  I was totally confused and frustrated that this dog had gone to the bathroom three times and mine still had not gone.

After Boomer had finally taken care of business I grabbed some breakfast from the hotel and as I was walking back to my truck my confusion about the three time bathroom going dog was resolved. The man and his wife were loading up three dogs, all the same breed and similar in size. Now it all made sense.  Sadly the possibility of three dogs had not dawned on me. I am blonde and apparently easily confused.

Boomer and I headed out to the Badlands for a driving tour that according to the information I had read should take about  two hours at most.  Or five if you ride with me. I guess I need a bumper sticker that says “I break for photos… a lot”.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

We drove down Sage Creek Rim Road, the same road we had driven down the night before. I found a great spot and stopped my truck, got my camera and hopped out.

As I looked through the viewfinder I focused my lens and began shooting away. All of the sudden a brown object appeared in my viewfinder. Startled I took the camera away from my face and found a bighorn sheep standing in front of me.

Well hello

Well hello

Although I was in a park and this animal had clearly seen humans before it was still a wild animal. It started to move closer to me which triggered me to back away slowly and then it stopped for what I believe, a pose for me.

dramatically looking right...

dramatically looking right…

not so dramatically looking left

not so dramatically looking left

Sort of looks photoshopped in... not that I have the skills to photoshop

Sort of looks photoshopped in… not that I have the skills to photoshop

The sheep stood there turning it’s head, looking dramatically off into the horizon, looking right, looking left, looking into the camera. This was not her first photo shoot. I was amused as we left her for the next car to capture her super model ways.

A bison on the prairie

A bison on the prairie

As we continued along the dirt road I saw a large buffalo lower on the prairie, file this away as it is important. I soon found another suitable photo taking spot. I got out of my truck, started fussing with my camera and here we go again.  Another brown object in my viewfinder except this time it was a fickin’ bull buffalo and instead of stopping for his photo to be taken he kept walking towards me.

Holy Crap!

Holy Crap!

I freaked out and walked swiftly (no running of course) backwards to my truck, keeping an eye on him at all times. I got into the truck as though the truck could protect me against this massive animal. Lets be honest he could probably tear through it in a heartbeat. Boomer seemed captivated by this bull and said nothing while staring intently at him. We slowly moved away from him and carried on our way. Luckily we had no other animal run ins for the rest of the day.

On his way to prairie Dog Town

On his way to Prairie Dog Town

The Badlands is an amazingly beautiful place and I enjoyed every moment I was there, clearly if it took five hours for me to visit what should have been a two hour drive.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

The beautiful red, yellow and orange layers of colors all tell a story of what the land was made of yesterday and today. It’s desert like scenery provided multiple photo capturing opportunities.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

I was pleased that, although Boomer was with me, I was essentially alone and could stop at any time I wanted to. This was something that was very important to me. I had gone to Banff National Park in Canada a few years earlier with Drama Papa and apparently the abundance of photography stops we had made was too many in his opinion. Boomer never said a word! Although the park is not very large it was rare that I ran into big groups of people and never had to stand in line to get the perfect shot.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

I stopped briefly at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on the east side of the park. If you prefer to get acquainted with the park prior to your driving tour I would recommend entering the park at Cactus Flat as there is no visitor center at the Pinnacles entrance where we entered. You are given an information pamphlet providing history and tidbits at the fee collection center at Pinnacles entrance however. But if you prefer a trip to the visitor center first, then Cactus Flat should be your entry point.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

For the most part The Badlands is a driving tour. There are hiking trails within the park and oddly enough there are no rules about staying on the trails. You are free to roam. Pets are allowed in the park, on leash in all developed areas/roads, meaning no trail or roaming free for the dogs. The heat is extreme in the park so it is not recommended to leave your pet in the car. If you do bring your pet, for health reasons you should keep your pet inside the car when around the prairie dog colonies, who carry diseases that can be transmitted to dogs and vice versa. Prairie dogs can be found all over the park and Prairie Dog Town off of Sage Creek Rim Road is named prairie dog town for a reason.

To visit the Badlands National Park you can find the park off of I-90 just after Wall or continue on to Cactus Flat depending on your preference regarding the visitor center. The park is open 24 hours a day and has a small fee of $15 per car for a 7 day pass. The America the Beautiful pass is valid for this park.

badlands national park south dakota

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4 Responses to Day 6 Visiting Badlands National Park, South Dakota

  1. Amy says:

    Beautiful! How much hiking is there? You mention that it’s mostly a drive-thru… did you get much hiking in?

    –A

    • Paws for Beer says:

      Hi Amy – thank you for your comment!

      I did not hike much as I had my dog with me and he is not allowed on the trails. I did a few easy trails, Door Trail (.75 miles), Window Trail (.25 miles) and the Fossil Exhibit Trail (.25 miles). All pretty short but the Window Trail was probably the most beautiful – you are looking through a “window” at the canyons – it’s pretty stellar. These short hikes are all on the east side of the park. There are a few trails that are longer, Notch Trail, 1.5 miles, Castle Trail 10 miles and Medicine Root Loop, 4 miles. I did not hike any of these but they are listed in my guide and thought I would share if you are looking for longer hikes. And like I had mentioned you are free to roam – which is pretty rare in a national park – so you can make your own trail!

  2. Jeremy says:

    Wow, great shots! That’s what the heartland of America SHOULD still look like most places. Bison running free as can be!

    • Paws for Beer says:

      thanks Jeremy. It was my first time seeing the prairie and I was blown away by it’s beauty! I can not wait to go back! Even if I get chased by the Bison 🙂

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