We took a leisurely approach to the first day of our first visit to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The unusual landscapes were unlike anything we had seen before, and we saw a little wildlife as well.
We pulled into Badlands National Park in South Dakota for the first time. We would be staying a few days and checking out the park.
The Badlands are unusual, interesting, and uniquely pretty. Driving through was enticing. We ended up at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and got some information.
The best time to visit the park is early in the morning and in the early evening when the light is less harsh and the crowds are down (there are lots of school field trips during the day during the week). So, after getting settled, we headed out around 6:00.
This is the view from the campground drive.
That time of day, the entrance booth was closed but you could drive on in. This is a view from the park road between the Cedar Pass Campground and the visitors center.
The visitors center and the campground are on the floor of the plains. Then there is a climb up to a higher plateau. We pulled off in the middle of the hill on the way up for a view of the random formations jutting up through the green grass.
In a curve, most of the way up, is the parking lot for the half-mile Cliff Shelf Trail. Our timing was good as we were the only ones there.
It's a loop trail with a nice walkway ....
that climbs about 300 feet.
There are some pretty nice views from the top.
Oh, and we saw our first Badlands mammal - I believe this is a Desert Cottontail.
We saw lots of those this evening.
From the top of the trail, we descended down a gravel path through a juniper forest. Usually, I pinch a piece of juniper to smell that wonderful fragrance, but it wasn't necessary here - juniper was in the air.
I zoomed in a little and took one more shot before leaving the Cliff Shelf Trail.
From there we drove to a large parking area which serves four different trails - the Door Trail, the Window Trail, the Notch Trail, and the Castle Trail. The parking lot was pretty full when we came through earlier but, as you can see below, there were just a few people there this evening.
The Castle Trail is a 5-mile one-way trail, so we skipped that one. The Notch Trail is a 1.5 mile trail requiring sturdy boots and we were just in our tennis shoes, so we passed on that one for now as well.
We started with the very easy, quarter-mile, boardwalk Window Trail.
That little sign is a warning to watch for rattlesnakes, and the signs are everywhere. I'm not sure if they are more to warn of snakes or an added incentive to get people to stay on the trails.
The trail ended abruptly at this bench with a railing.
From there, we had this view.
On our way back to the parking lot, we saw our second Badlands mammal - a Least Chipmunk feeding in the shadows.
From the parking lot, we walked toward the Door Trail.
The Door Trail is a quarter-mile boardwalk trail ....
that leads out to a couple of benches for more views of the Badlands.
However, near the end of the boardwalk, you can exit and take a half-mile hike out amongst the rocks. You follow these yellow poles ...
out for a variety of different views ....
until you reach the edge of the canyon.
We sat out there for several minutes. With no wind and no people, the phrase "the silence was deafening" took on a very literal connotation. Only the songs of the distant meadowlarks and our vista-sharing Rock Wren broke the silence.
We walked back into the setting sun which silhouetted the formations between us and the parking lot.
Before exiting the trail, I took one last shot.
Back in the Jeep, we headed toward the campground. But we didn't get far before seeing some Mule Deer grazing and had to stop.
This one was off by itself.
As I was about to get back in the Jeep, three more crossed the road behind us.
On our way again. But then we found eight more deer right by the road as we descended toward the visitors center.
Here's a shot focusing on the background.
Okay, one more shot before exiting the park.
Now, we're done. That was a nice little introduction to Badlands National Park.