If you are planning to see Badlands National Park or to do a South Dakota road trip, you may be wondering if you can drive inside the rocks of the park. This article covers every detail about Badlands Loop Road, from the fees to the entrance hours and the yearly weather. So, can you drive through Badlands National Park?

You can totally drive through Badlands National Park in under 2 hours. It will cost you $30 per vehicle for 7 days -the park entrance fees. There are no entrance hours meaning you can drive Badlands scenic loop 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The two entrances to Badlands Loop Road are located on the South Dakota Highway 240, on Interstate 90 in South Dakota. It will take you 90 minutes to get from Rapid City to Badlands National Park Visitor Center.

Driving Through Badlands National Park: The Experience

Driving through Badlands National Park is unique because there are not a lot of other parks where you can really get close to the monuments from your car.

For instance, if you choose to visit Monument Valley in the Western part of the U.S, there is also a road to get close to the monuments, but the road is not as well preserved as this one.

Badlands Loop Road

To have an idea of what it looks like driving Badlands Loop Road, here is a video with an on-board point of view.

Credits to Ma Kinda Travel

While driving Badlands Loop Road, you will want to stop at several viewpoints. Don’t worry, there are car parks whenever you need them. Once again, the park is well preserved and tourist-friendly. Simply pay the fees and enjoy the park.

Here is a map showing all the viewpoints where you can stop.

drive through badlands national park
Picture from TravelSouthDakota.com

I found this map on TravelSouthDakota.com, a website providing great tips to travel this state. I definitely recommend that you check it out if you are planning a road trip to the area. We will discuss that later.

As you can see on the map, there are some points to simply stop and watch, like the Panorama Point, the Burns Basin Overlook, the Yellow Mounds Overlook, and the Pinnacle Overlook. However, there are also points where you can learn about the park itself. For instance, Badlands National Park is known for its fossils. If you stop at the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead and walk for a bit, you will see some fossils of various species.

Fossils and wildlife

Then, if you stop at Ben Reifel Visitor Center, you will learn about the fossils and also about the wildlife of Badlands National Park. This place is famous for its abundant wildlife. You can definitely see buffalos and other animals everywhere in the park. Badlands National Park is an ecosystem in itself with tons of species. Make sure to open your eyes while driving in the area!

brown rocky mountains under clear sky at daytime
An overall view of Badlands National Park. Credits to Jéan Béller

Can you drive Badlands National Park in winter?

If you are planning a trip to Badlands National Park during the winter season, you may be wondering: is the loop road open in winter? This is what we are going to discuss now. So, can you drive Badlands National Park in winter?

According to the National Park Service, you can drive Badlands National Park in winter if the weather conditions make it possible. You should call the park at (605) 433-5361 beforehand to know whether the road is slippery or icy. If it is not the case, then you can totally drive Badlands National Park in winter.

Badlands National Park yearly weather

Since Badlands National Park is 3,300 feet (or 1000 meters) above sea level, the weather is a bit special. Let’s explain it.

Basically, the higher you get in elevation, the more the temperature varies usually. This rule is true in Badlands National Park. The temperatures fall low during the night and can get pretty high during the daytime.

This makes camping in Badlands National Park almost impossible in winter because the temperatures fall below zero degrees Celcius. For instance, in January, it’s -9° degrees in Badlands National Park at the peak of the night.

However, camping is perfect during the summer months because the temperatures fall between 10°C and 15°C. If you are a hardened camper, this should not scare you.

Here is a table of the yearly weather in Badlands National Park.

MonthHigh / Low(°C)Rain
January2° / -9°1 day
February2° / -8°2 days
March8° / -3°3 days
April14° / 2°8 days
May19° / 7°9 days
June25° / 13°9 days
July31° / 18°6 days
August29° / 16°6 days
September24° / 11°4 days
October16° / 4°5 days
November8° / -2°2 days
December1° / -8°2 days
Table of the yearly weather in Badlands National Park. Source: NOAA

Visiting Badlands National Park in winter is a great idea because you may have the chance to see incredible snowy landscapes. But maybe you should not stay camping in the area and sleep in the nearby hotels.

mountains at golden hour with snow
Scenic view of Badlands National Park in winter. Credits to kiwi thompson

The Best South Dakota Road Trip (including Badlands)

Since driving in Badlands National Park is possible, there are tons of options available. You can either visit it in one day and leave your car only at the viewpoints. You can choose to spend several days in the area: walk, camp, look for fossils, observe the wildlife, and so on. Or, you could also include Badlands National Park in a greater road trip in South Dakota. This is what we are going to discuss.

The Great 8 of South Dakota (including Badlands)

As mentioned earlier, the website TravelSouthDakota.com names the best places in South Dakota The Great 8. Those are the 8 places you must see if you want to really explore South Dakota

  • MOUNT RUSHMORE
  • BADLANDS
  • CRAZY HORSE
  • CUSTER STATE PARK
  • HISTORIC DEADWOOD
  • JEWEL CAVE
  • WIND CAVE
  • MISSOURI RIVER

Of course, seeing the 8 of them is not easy and you will need to plan your trip accordingly. However, if you want to clear your thoughts about road tripping South Dakota, here is a video from Rock the Park where the two protagonists do a road trip in Custer State Park, Jewel Cave, and the Badlands. They even camp in the park.

Credits to Rock the Park

They chose those 3 destinations of The Great 8 because they are relatively close to each other. They are all located in the South-Western part of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is also in this area. It takes 2 hours to get from Badlands National Park to Mount Rushmore.

Including Badlands National Park on a road trip is a great idea for one reason: you can do the whole road trip by car. The region is known for its accommodations and it is easy to navigate all the places mentioned in The Great 8.

If you choose this option, you should make sure to plan your trip accordingly. Indeed, the Missouri River is also a great place to see but it is not located in the same area.

Some inspiration before you drive through Badlands National Park

Before leaving you, I wanted to convince you one last time to visit this incredible National Park. For that, what is better than great footage. The following video, from More Than Just Parks, is simply the best shots of Badlands National Park I have ever seen.

Credits to More Than Just Parks

I hope that this article was helpful and that you got all the information you needed about Badlands National Park. If you want more information about hiking and climbing in the U.S. National Parks, you can definitely check the articles I wrote about Arches National Park and El Capitan in Yosemite.

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