Just 60 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota lies the Badlands, a rugged landscape of rock and prairie that captures both the brutality and beauty of nature.

Describing the Badlands to someone who has never seen it is invariably difficult: how can, after all, a land entirely comprised of sharp spires, cliffs, and giant buttes be anything other than ugly? Yet for the nearly 1 million people who visit this remote Park in South Dakota, the place becomes the opposite: its colors are beautiful, its landscape, and its views epic and breathtaking.

Protecting miles of the eponymous “badland”- a colorful rock formation caused by deposition and erosion- the area has been a National Monument since 1938 and a National Park since 1978 (Carter). A Native American hunting ground for over 10,000 years, the region has seen no shortage of disputes with Native American tribes, including the nearby Wounded Knee massacre, where over 150 Lakota men, women, and children were killed by US soldiers.

Today, as part of the ongoing reconciliation process with the Lakota, the Southern District of the Park is co-managed with the tribe; with the hope that one-day it will be fully returned to its rightful people. A vast and vivid region full of bighorn sheep, stunning colors, and rolling prairies, Badlands National Park is an absolute must-visit National Park.

Here are my photos from my recent visit:

Badlands at Sunrise

Looking out over the Badlands

Big Badlands Overlook Sunrise

Badlands at Sunrise

Big Horn Sheep in the Badlands

Big Horn Sheep

Yellow Mounds in Badlands

They call these the “Yellow Mounds”- bright yellow badlands with red rings around them.

Valley of the Badlands

End of Notch Trail

The End of the Notch Trail

Categories: US National Parks