The Badlands of South Dakota

Hermosa, SD

For our last adventure in western South Dakota we drove east for a visit to Badlands National Park.  It’s a bit of a drive (about 90 mi.) from Hermosa to the park entrance and if we were to do it again we would find an RV park somewhere closer to it, especially since we will be traveling in that direction tomorrow.  But the roads are good and the scenery is nice, so it wasn’t a bad trip.

After a stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, we headed into the park to do a short hike.  The Notch Trail is about a mile and half roundtrip and takes you through a canyon and up a steep log ladder to a nice overlook.

The log ladder

The trail above the ladder

The windy overlook

Heading back with the ladder in the distance

The “down” is more difficult than the “up”

Returning to the Jeep we set out for a 22 mile ride through the park on the Scenic Loop Road (SD-240).

Check out the arch in the center of the photo

The Yellow Mounds

Along the way we passed a number of large prairie dog towns.  In one the sharp eye’s of the nimble hiker spotted a Burrowing Owl.

Burrowing owls like to nest in the holes dug by the prairie dogs.  Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are often active during the day, although they tend to avoid the midday heat.  But like many other kinds of owls, burrowing owls do most of their hunting from dusk until dawn when they can use their night vision and hearing to their advantage. Living in open grasslands as opposed to the forest, the burrowing owl has developed longer legs, which enables it to sprint as well as fly when hunting.

After passing the Pinnacle Overlook we turned left on Sagecreek Rim Road, a maintained dirt road that leads west back out of the park.  Along the way we were fortunate to spot some Bighorn Sheep resting among the rocks.

While a day is enough time to visit the Badlands National Park, the colorful beauty of the area make it well worth a visit.

After a great visit to the Black Hills area we will now continue our journey east.  Next up is a short stop in Chamberlain, SD.  More on that later . . .

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34 Responses to The Badlands of South Dakota

  1. Unbelievable, these sheep really knows when you are in town, always in the ready to greet you.
    Love the Badlands too, we were in Custer and drove this far for a visit.
    I too have to sit on each step going down.

    • placestheygo says:

      We found the sheep on the Sagecreek Rim Road that we took back home since I had read it was where the wildlife was located. It was on our route home but not on the way if you were taking I-90. We saw eight sheep in all. But the two in the blog did the best job posing for us:) We didn’t take the ladder up because there were too many people waiting to come down. We literally crawled up the bank next to it where there was a little narrow trail.

  2. jcgc50 says:

    Great wildlife sightings!

  3. I agree! The Badlands are a must see when in the Black Hills. So hard to imagine what life was like for the settlers who lived there. Beautiful photos! Love the owl.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks! I was very excited to see the owl. There were actually two of them but one was too far for my camera. Thank goodness they were standing on the edge or I would have missed them.

  4. Marsha Weaver says:

    Love that area. I wasn’t too dang crazy about that log ladder though. I said…No Thank You. You, Miss Pam, are much more adventurous than I.

    Can you just image crossing that area on horseback. I think that would have been so scary!

    Love the wildlife. We have yet to see a burrowing owl up close and personal.

    • placestheygo says:

      The ladder was so awkward since the lower part was almost flat but not flat enough to stand up to walk down til near the bottom. The owls are hard to spot unless they are standing on the outside edge which my were. It was the little legs that grabbed my attention. Lucky find:)

  5. Jeff says:

    A log ladder? who thought of that, where there are few trees? Looks like a fun challenge, tho. Great you were able to capture the local residents in such detail. Awesome shots of the owls and the sheep.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Jeff! I was so excited to see the burrowing owls and then the sheep made a perfect day! The ladder wasn’t difficult just awkward because of the positioning.

  6. We did not make the long drive to visit Badlands, so thanks for taking me there! Love the burrowing owl…I have not seen one in the wild.

    • placestheygo says:

      It is probably good you didn’t make the long drive. I must say I was a little disappointed with the color. I guess I’ve spent too much time in Utah:) The hiking is nothing to write home about. The Notch Trail is the only one with challenge. But we were too close to skip it since it had been a very long time since our last visit.

  7. Jim and Barb says:

    The badlands certainly are an interesting and unique area. We always enjoy visiting that area and exploring among the rocks.

  8. Sue says:

    Ah, there are those little owls! Thanks for showing them to us, we’ve never seen one in its natural habitat. I don’t like that ladder….

  9. Sherry says:

    What luck you had in the Badlands seeing the burrowing owl and the Bighorn sheep. Great pictures of both. I have tried in multiple places to see the burrowing owl and have always struck out. We stayed in the park and really loved being so close to all the trails and those fabulous colors in the Badlands. We actually spent about a week there and didn’t run of out things to see or trails to hike.

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    Glad to see what’s at the top of that ladder – thanks for navigating that “ladder”! Glad to see the sheep mojo has returned. The pics are wonderful. But the owls!! So darn cute 🙂 I love the rugged beauty and muted colors.

    • placestheygo says:

      I was beginning to wonder, Jodee, about our ability to call the sheep…haha! So glad our whispering worked:) This would not be a trail for anyone with a fear of heights! After the ladder the trail was on the edge.

  11. Gay says:

    I have never seen a burrowing owl in the wild either…what a treat! I love the Badlands although we have never hiked there.

  12. Laurel says:

    You saw a Burrowing Owl! I’ve searched and searched for them in places where they’re supposed to be, but have never seen one in the wild. So cute!! Looks like you’re having your usual good luck of seeing the sheep, too. 🙂 That ladder makes for an interesting addition to the hike—looks like my kind of technique for the descent, haha!

    • placestheygo says:

      There were actually two owls but only one was close enough for photos. Thank goodness they were both standing up on the outside edge so they stood out and I caught sight of those little legs:) The ladder was so awkward and you had to use all fours either forward or backward.

  13. LuAnn says:

    It’s been a few years since we visited Badlands. I don’t recall seeing any bighorn sheep, but then again you are the sheep whisperer. 😉

    • placestheygo says:

      LuAnn, we actually saw very little wildlife on the Scenic Loop other than a million prairie dogs and the burrowing owls (there were two but one was too far for my camera). I had read that the Sagecreek Rim Road was the place for wildlife. It is a dirt road heading away from I-90 so not as popular, but on our route home. This is where we saw eight Bighorns in two different places. There were also a few buffalo but too far for good photos.

  14. Looks like a great place. We missed it last year because of the heat and a problem with our slide that needed fixed while in So Dakota. Love the burrowing owls.

  15. Vanholio! says:

    My favorite thing there was all the prairie dog towns. Cute little buggers.

  16. rommel says:

    Omg! Those are breathtaking views! Literally breathtaking. My heart just sank, and my jaw just dropped, at the sight of those views. I’m in awe. Ima have to remember this one.

  17. geogypsy2u says:

    Only drove through Badlands once with no stopping or hiking. Looks like an interesting landscape though not sure I like the looks of that ladder, especially coming down. Seems there should be separate up and and down ladders. Great wildlife sightings. Love the burrowing owl.

    • placestheygo says:

      We have only driven through with no stopping previously which is why I wanted to go back and spend a little time. I was disappointed in the colors though. I guess I’ve spent too much time in Utah:) I agree with their needing to be two ladders since it took some people a very long time to get down. This was the reason we crawled up the side on a little trail. Luckily, there was no one up there with us, and we had the ladder to ourselves coming down:)

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