Tracks & TrailsTracks & Trails
Forgot password?
Badlands National Park RV Vacation

About Badlands National Park

Jagged peaks, buttes, pinnacles, ridges, spires, and valleys formed in layers of colors (the white of volcanic ash, the orange of iron oxide, the grays and tans of silt, clay, and ash mixtures, and the purple of oxidized manganese) make up the rugged beauty of this region. This rough and unforgiving terrain led the Lakota people to call this area mako sica, which translates to “bad lands” and is how the National Park got its name.

The park covers 244,000 acres and holds the world’s richest fossil beds from the Oligocene Epoch, which occurred 34 million to 23 million years ago. Scientists have found remains here of such interesting animals as a three-toed horse, a camel, a saber-toothed cat, and an ancestor of the rhinoceros. You can visit the park’s Fossil Preparation Lab for the opportunity to engage with paleontologists and other park staff working on Badlands fossils.

Driving the Badlands Loop Road will take you through the different rock formations in the park. Be sure to stop at the many overlooks to enjoy the spectacular views and be on the lookout for the park’s wildlife: bison, bighorn sheep, coyotes, prairie dogs, burrowing owls, and pronghorn. Hiking trails will take you to even more spectacular views! Hike to views of eroded canyons or the White River Valley, explore mixed grass prairie with views of the Badlands in the distance, or walk the boardwalk trail with its fossil replicas and exhibits of extinct creatures that once roamed the area.

Interesting Facts About Badlands National Park

  • To date, archaeologists have not discovered any sign of permanent habitation in the park. Instead, campfire, butchering, and quarry sites suggest that the Badlands served as a seasonal hunting ground for a succession of peoples.
  • In 1922, when Badlands was first proposed as a national park, the suggested name was Wonderland National Park!