Badlands National Park

Day Hiking

Most of these trails are shown either on our overview map or our Badlands Loop Road detail map.

Castle Trail
The longest trail in the park at five miles, the Castle Trail stretches from the Fossil Exhibit Trail and the Door/Window parking area. Primarily level, this path parallels some precipitous badlands formations. The Medicine Root Trail makes a loop within the Castle Trail from any connecting trailhead. Not heavily used, the Castle Trail offers a chance for solitude and wildlife viewing.

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail
One-half-mile loop trail that winds through a wooded prairie oasis surrounded by the parched Badlands. A trail guide is available for purchase at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or at the trailhead. Walkers will wander in and out of small tree shaded areas and take advantage of boardwalks and a flight of stairs in place to protected fragile resources. Located 1/2 mile north of the Visitor Center, the trail climbs approximately 200 feet in elevation. Views of the White River Valley are incomparable. The parking lot is small and cannot accommodate long vehicles towing trailers.

Door Trail
Three-quarter-mile round-trip trail that focuses on the park's geologic history. Starting at the northern end of the large Door and Window parking area two miles northeast of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Door Trail penetrates into wildly eroded badlands through a break called "The Door" in the Badlands Wall. The first 100 yards are paved and accessible to an athletic wheelchair user; however, the path will soon become more rugged. Good walking shoes are required. A trail guide is available for purchase along the trail or at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. It is recommended that you stay on the trail in the Door area. Those venturing into the formations occasionally lose their bearings and become lost.

Fossil Exhibit Trail
One-quarter-mile loop trail that is fully accessible to those with mobility impairments. A trail guide is available for purchase at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or at the trailhead. Examples of some now-extinct creatures that once called the Badlands home are protected under clear domes. Located five miles northwest of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the trail is a very easy walk. During summer months, park naturalists give presentations about the rich fossil history of the park.

Notch Trail
One-and-one-half-mile round-trip trail that is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. Meandering through a canyon, this trail presents the hiker with the opportunity to climb a steep ladder, then travel along a ledge to "The Notch" above the Cliff Shelf area. One of the best views of the White River Valley and the Pine Ridge Reservation rewards those who complete the trail. For the adventurous, the Notch Trail can be treacherous during and just after heavy rains. The trail begins at the north end of the Door and Window parking area and requires hikers to wear sturdy hiking boots. A hat and sunglasses are also recommended.

Saddle Pass Trail
Very short but very steep, the Saddle Pass Trail is impassable after rains. It connects the middle of the Castle Trail and the Medicine Root Loop to the Badlands Loop Road. The trailhead and parking area are located two miles west of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.

Window Trail
One-quarter-mile round-trip trail that is accessible to athletic wheelchair users. Offering a view of an intricately eroded canyon, this trail leads you to a natural "window" in the Badlands Wall. This trail begins at the center of the Door and Window parking area.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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