Plan to be in South Dakota on your family travels? As part of our 17-day road trip this summer, we crossed the state and found a fabulous place for exercise and learning. Badlands National Park is huge–244,000 acres winding through central and southwestern parts of the state.
The landscape was like nothing we'd seen before–even coming from volcanic, historic Yellowstone. It was hard to imagine Native Americans and homesteaders crossing this part of the country.
Where can I find the Badlands National Park?
Insterstate 90 (I-90) is directly north of the park, and there are spots where you can access the Hwy 240 Badlands Loop Road. 240 takes you through the north parts of the park before connecting back up to I-90 at Exit 110.
We chose to continue east and take Exit 131 to reach the Park Headquarters and Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Since we were already doing so much driving (we left the Mount Rushmore area early that morning), we preferred to get out and explore rather than do the car loop.
Should we check out the visitors center?
Inside the Visitor Center, you'll find exhibits sharing the geology, paleontology and biology of the Badlands area. Kids 12 and under can ask the ranger on duty for a Junior Ranger booklet and use the exhibits to complete it.
There were fossils to touch and paleontology equipment to try. We learned about the Lakota people and the wildlife that inhabits the Badlands. My kids were excited to earn their fifth badge on this trip!
Are there places to explore at Badlands National Park?
We spent most of our time at Badlands National Park climbing the huge boulders between the Visitor Center and I-90. There were plenty of access points, beautiful views, and (thankfully) a restroom.
Even I got in on the climbing action! If we'd had more time, we would have enjoyed doing a hike elsewhere in the park, but we were headed east across the state and it was already a long day. Climbing was the perfect way to break up the 8 hour drive!
Getting out of the car, exploring a bit, and burning off some energy after being in the car for so long was great. It doesn't hurt that it's such a cool location!
Planning to visit any National Parks in the next year?
You may be eligible for a FREE National Park Pass with the Every Kid in a Park program. It's a great way to explore and experience the amazing National Parks near you (or near your travel locations) without breaking your travel or entertainment budget.
Looking for other family friendly travel posts?
Here are some more of our other family travel posts! We love spending time together as a family traveling but I also love keeping us on budget. The two can actually go together believe it or not!