The Open Road

Hiking the Badlands Doesn’t Seem So Bad

On our last day in the Badlands, we ventured into the less popular southern half of the park. This part of the park is further from the highway and doesn’t have as many of the Badlands characteristic features. Still, it is not without its charm. It is jointly managed by the parks service and the Pine Ridge Reservation. After we stopped at the southern visitors center, we headed back north again on Bombing Range Road. During WW II this land served as target practice for B-17s in training. We turned off the black-top onto Sheep Mountain Road and drove up onto the bluff. We parked at the sign warning that 4-wheel drive was recommended, if you were to drive further. Our Prius is not all that much of an off-road vehicle. We set off on foot. Much of the hike was through tabletop flat fields of green grass. It had been a wet spring and everywhere there was green.

Occasionally, the dirt road would come close to the edge of the butte and treat us to a vista of true badlands, rough land for miles and not a sign of mankind. In fact, we didn’t see anyone on our hike. There was not much wildlife, some birds, but no bugs. It is unusual to have one of our National Parks all to yourself. We walked to the end of the road, which overlooked a rugged canyon and enjoyed the lunch that we had packed in. After lunch, we walked back to the car, which was waiting where we had left it. 

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