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Colorful geologic formations, abundant fossils and tons of wildlife make Badlands National Park a quintessential road-trip destination. Explore the Great Plains in your RV with our five tips to make the most of your vacation.
Know Where to Camp
Badlands National Park has two campgrounds: Cedar Pass Lodge Campground and Sage Creek Campground. For most RVs, Cedar Pass Lodge Campground is the only option as Sage Creek can only accommodate vehicles 18 feet in length or shorter.
Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park Photo: Depositphotos
The Cedar Pass Lodge Campground is located walking distance from the Cedar Pass Lodge, which has a restaurant and a gift shop that sells camping supplies and groceries. Electric hookups are available in RV sites but there are no sewage hookups. A dump station on-site is $1 per use. Pay showers, flush toilets and water are also available in the area. The sites here are very large, and in the summer, there are 14-day stay limits.
The campground is open early April through late October each year. Make advanced reservations at www.cedarpasslodge.com/campground or at at (605) 433-5476 or (605) 433-5460.
Rethink the S’mores
While roasting a marshmallow over the campfire might feel essential to the camping experience, due to high fire danger year-round, campfires are not allowed at Badlands National Park. Consider packing an LED lantern to set your chairs around for a cozy glow. If you just can’t give up the s’mores, you can pack a portable propane or charcoal grill to roast marshmallows. Or, try this stovetop s’mores dip that can be made on your RV’s stove. cookcraftlove.com/simple-stovetop-smores-dip-3/
Choose Your Route
There are three main roads in Badlands National Park. The Badlands Loop Road is the only paved route through the park. The Sage Creek Rim Road is gravel and dirt and can be driven in an RV. Be sure to check conditions though, since this road can close after heavy rain or snowstorms. The final road, Sheep Mountain Table, is not suggested if you don’t have four-wheel drive.
Badlands National Park is known for its wildlife, so be sure to obey posted speed limits and pay attention to the road. Pull off safely before viewing any wildlife.
Check the Weather
South Dakota’s weather can be unpredictable. Summer highs can reach above 110-degrees Fahrenheit and winter lows can hit extreme negative temperatures. In the summer thunderstorms, including hail and sometimes even tornadoes, can pop up suddenly and in the winter snow is common.
Be prepared with layers, sun protection and plenty of water. Always check the forecast before heading out by vehicle or foot.
Storm clouds gather at Badlands National Park. (Photo: Brooke Klondike)
Make it a Road Trip
This area of South Dakota is awash in incredible national park sites. The underground wonders of Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument, the fascinating history of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and the classic view of Mount Rushmore National Memorial are all within two hours of Badlands. The stunning Black Hills National Forest is also within a two-hour drive. Our Chicago to Dakota Black Hills to Yellowstone Road Trip will help you start dreaming up your ultimate road trip.