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Hiking Trails in Badlands

Most of the formal hiking trails in Badlands National Park are confined to the eastern side of the North Unit, in the Cedar Pass area around the visitor center. Hiking in other areas is possible, but is mostly cross-country travel over unmarked land. Hiking distances given below are total, roundtrip distances unless otherwise stated. Difficulties are only a general guideline, for an adult in good condition, and do not take into account trail length. We strongly recommend you also have a good Badlands Trail Map with you.

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

  • Trail Length: 0.5 miles loop
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Traffic: Moderate
  • Finding the Trailhead: The hike begins from the Cliff Shelf parking lot, just north of the visitor center on the Badlands Loop Road.

The Hike: This is an area called a slump, and is covered in juniper trees. It is a rare area of refuge from the harsh conditions of the badlands, and plants and animals thrive here. The easy trail loops through and above the area.

Cliff Shelf Trail in Badlands National Park in South Dakota

The Door, Notch & Window

  • Trail Length: 0.6 / 1.5 / 0.25 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy / Moderate / Easy
  • Trail Traffic: Moderate
  • Finding the Trailhead: These three hikes all begin from the parking area located on the Badlands Loop Road 2.6 miles southwest of the Northeast Entrance, or 2.3 miles northeast of the visitor center.

The Hike: The Door and Window Trails are short, scenic, and easy walks to two spectacular viewpoints through openings in the Badlands Wall. A view along the Window Trail is shown bewlow. The Notch Trail is a bit longer, and steeper, as it climbs a ladder to a viewpoint overlooking the area.

The Window in Badlands National Park in South Dakota

Fossil Nature Trail

  • Trail Length: 0.25 miles loop
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Traffic: Moderate to Heavy
  • Finding the Trailhead: The trail begins from a parking area located along the Badlands Loop Road 4.9 miles west of the visitor center.

The Hike: This is a flat and easy nature trail that loops through a scenic area. Several fossil examples are presented along the way, many of them protected in cases as shown to below.

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